Poplar Bluff To Get New Public Radio Station Page 10
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Southeast Missouriâ€™s News and Entertainment Community
October 16, 2014
Review, page 15
Downtown Dexter special edition
1899 N Westwood #218, Poplar Bluff, MO 63901
Brian Becker - Publisher Tammy Hilderbrand - Reporter Toni Becker - Columnist Rachael Herndon - Creative Director Michelle Lack - Sales
Scott Faughn - President Steve Hankins - Reporter Peter Tinsley - Sales DeAnna Strubinger - Sales
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DON’T FORGET From the Publisher’s Desk TO LIKE US ON FACEBOOK AND FOLLOW US ON TWITTER We’ve been planning our Dexter Downtown issue for over a month now and I’m excited to introduce many of our area readers to this amazing downtown. Dexter is growing in great ways and it was exciting to sit down with many of those involved in making that happen. Dexter’s strip area is also growing and I was excited to hear that Marty Michel and Key Drugs is expanding into the Dexter strip. For me, as an entrepreneur, one of the most exciting things I discovered while we were focused on Dexter was the Chamber’s incubator space for new businesses. That’s exciting to see a community focused on startups. I hope other area chambers are doing this same thing; if not, please contact Dexter Chamber and find out about their program and vision. Sincerely,
CONTENTS Page 5, 11 Dexter Doing It Right Especially Downtown Page 6 Gone Girl Page 7 Marvin’s Room to be Performed at Tinnin Fine Arts This Weekend Page 8-9 Photos of Fall Contest Page 10 Poplar Bluff to Get New Public Radio Station Page 12 Donna West and Dexter’s Ben Franklin Page 12 The Metro Gallery Page 14 Wisdom from the Woods Page 15 Review: Dhafer’s Mediterranean Steakhouse
UPCOMING EVENTS OCTOBER
POPLAR BLUFF PINK OUT
CENTER STAGE PRESENTS “MARVIN’S ROOM”
NIGHTMARE AT KINYON SCHOOL
TINNIN FINE ARTS CENTER,
KINYON SCHOOL, POPLAR BLUFF, 4:00PM
BATTLE OF THE BANDS
THE HAUNTED GROTTO
DONIPHAN 3RD ANNUAL HAUNTED DOWNTOWN SPOOKTACULAR
THREE RIVERS SHRINE CLUB, 5:00-10:00PM
BLUE MOON BAR, 7:00PM POPLAR BLUFF
AAD GROTTO, 7:00-10:00PM
REGISTRATION AT COLTON’S 9:30AM
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Doing It Right Especially Downtown By Steve Hankins
The Chamber of Commerce is also an active and vital part of the community. In June of 2001 the DEXTER – Jane Jacobs, in The Death and Life Chamber coordinated the purchase and renovation of American Cities, describes the need for a vital of approximately half of the old Paramount Headdowntown because its life-force breathes into every wear building on Market Street to accommodate other part of the city. Dexter's downtown is a perfect two new industries. example of that life-force and Dexter is a great exChamber Executive Director Janet Coleman example of a great city. plained that the next year saw the renovation of the Downtown Dexter is bustling with retail business, remainder of the building to accommodate spaces from consignment clothing stores to upscale, eclec- for five start-up businesses, two start-up offices, a tic variety shops. You need only go into a single conference/training room, and new chamber officshop to find out about all the downtown retailers es, along with a large reception area using both and what you can get where. That’s one astounding grant funds and local financing. attribute you find in downtown Dexter; they support Often referred to as incubator space, the pureach other very proudly. pose of using a portion of the available space Talk with City Administrator Mark Stidham and for start-ups was to give them the opportunity to you will quickly understand the winning strategy be- have low overhead for at least three years. At that hind Dexter’s success. Dexter’s downtown is a per- time, assistance would be offered to enable them fect example of public and private investment in a to move to a permanent location. Over the years community working in concert with the active Dex- since opening their incubator space, the tenants ter Downtown Association, keeping the community have included a martial arts instructor, a womand other organizations involved in downtown with an-owned business providing training for youth in events and activities. tumbling and cheer, an embroidery business, a He said the city couldn’t have justified all the cleaning equipment distributor, a model car and work downtown if the shop owners hadn’t also in- airplane merchandiser and a solar energy company vested in having their businesses downtown. The expanding their business from Alabama. city completely redesigned and rebuilt the drainage In 2010, Three Rivers College – Dexter Center system, re-sidewalked and surfaced the thorough- began renting close to 20,000 square feet and fares and even added vignette seating areas which additional space has been assigned for future exreach out to the street from pansion of the campus. The the sidewalk. of the campus has I have to say, the Ben addition Stidham was also quick opened the doors to the to point out that the two main Franklin Store really helps development of educational commercial areas are supour business. People opportunities to train the loportive of one another and cal workforce, thus creating come from all over to an atmosphere conducive to the city works to ensure both are continually enhanced. economic development. shop there. He said that several years SEMO TIMES tried to sit back “the complaint was down with Bill Hampton the that no one could see Dexter Director at TRC’s Dexter from the highway” as passcampus, but he instantly ersby just kept passing by. said, “Let’s take a tour!” The city invested in lighting at each of their HighHampton showed off the college’s outstanding way 60 intersections and along the main drag of facility which turns four years old in January. TRC the strip and the investment paid off. Dexter’s sales at Dexter has over 400 students taking classes with tax revenues have steadily increased over the past local instructors and using the latest video instrucfive years to the tune of $500,000 more since 2009. tion. Some students use it as a springboard to other In the first 10 months of 2014, Dexter’s 2 percent colleges and universities and other students come city sales tax revenue is up by $106,000 over the for the institution’s two main emphases: Green Diesame period of 2013. At their rate, annual tax rev- sel Technology and Medical Billing and Coding. enues could exceed $2M annually before the end Hampton said that it’s exciting to see diesel comof the decade. pany recruiters come in and select TRC students,
PHYLLIS KULL THE CORNER CAFÉ
We have such a great mix of people and businesses, and all of us work really hard to always be changing things. We don’t want to become stagnant.
ERIN BROWN THE METRO who spend less than $4500 on their degree, over their closest rival in Nashville where the students pay almost ten times that. Many things lend to the success of Dexter’s campus which has increased over 400 percent in their four-year history, but few will deny that having Hampton as director is a key to their success. Mention downtown to any of the above community leaders and their countenance lights up even more. It is clear that the pride of Dexter is accentuated by the downtown district. Though SEMO TIMES tried to get to every store, time nor newsprint space allowed. In addition to some of our featured store articles, here is a snapshot of what a visitor to the area will find wandering through Dexter's downtown: Morgan's Furniture A mainstay of downtown for about 80 years, generations of Dexter residents have shopped at Morgan's for furniture needs. "We've outlived all the other furniture stores," joked owner John Agey. "We have good furniture, good prices and friendly service. "I’m a second generation owner here," he added. “Started pushing a broom when I was five. I think when people come in they see our stock, our prices and our service." Agey said he's seen many changes on the face of downtown throughout the years. "There's been a resurgence in the last five years or so," he said. "Many young people have moved here and increased the feel of community. That's when we began to see even more business." CHRISMAN ART GALLERY Gallery owner Joe Vinson said his family played a role in downtown commerce in one business or another since 1959. The family still has a hand in the oil and propane business, he said. "We've been here in the art business since
1972," the 82-year-old Vinson said. "Here, we specialize in limited edition prints. "We have a frame shop here so we do lots of custom work," he added. "It's tough to find that in a small town anymore." N'STYLE GALLERIA At the same location for the last several years, visitors to N’Style Galleria might recognize the boutique by the tell-tale mural painted on the outside of the building. Or perhaps by the former moniker Lois' House of Fashions. Owner Pam Garner was there for the last 12 years and says a recent remodeling offered rebirth to the store, and to business. "The new stores opening here helped a lot," she admitted. "The Loft, The French Market, The Metro, all helped to bolster all the businesses here." Garner said diversity of goods and services makes N'Style Galleria a unique shopping experience. From Merle Norman cosmetics to Romanian original art, the shop has a surprise to be found around every aisle. DALLI'S DRESSER Operating as My Sister's Closet for the past 12 years helped owner Melissa McWilliams stock consignment clothing items good for the whole family. "We really do have a little of everything," she said. "We have consignment pieces from kids to adult sizes." McWilliams said now is the right time to buy at Dalli's. “When the weather really changes is when we have most stock,” she said. "Fall and spring we are just overflowing with goods." Corner Stop Café Owner Phyllis Kull started her downtown eatery here more than four years ago. She said the fact that she has no walk-in freezers and no deep fryers adds to the ambience of her cafe. Kull said she's living a dream. "Everything is fresh," she said. "Our food is made fresh daily." Kull said she traveled all over the country to find a place like Dexter. "It is really a good town," she noted. "It's slow” in a good way. "It's financially healthy," she continued. "And the people here strive to preserve downtown.” Kull noted she's had her work cut out for her offering fresh items to southern palates.
Continued on page 11
Gone Girl By Tammy Hilderbrand While “Gone Girl” fever is sweeping the nation, two Poplar Bluff residents are enjoying knowing they had a small role to play in the thriller’s success. Jamie Hickson and Michael Hibler, both of Poplar Bluff, spent days on set in Cape Girardeau as extras in the film. It’s an experience they will remember for their entire lives. “I saw a post on Facebook about a movie being filmed in Cape Girardeau, so I went to the casting call,” recalled Hickson. He said it took him about ten minutes to fill out the paper work and then it was waiting time. “They’d bring groups of people up on stage, shoot individual pictures of them, and then it was time to wait some more,” said Hickson. He said it was an interesting experience because all kinds of people were there hoping for a shot at being an extra in the movie. “Some scenes had cops. Some had
neighbors. I was chosen for a bar scene.” Michael Hibler, who has Dark Hamlet Production Studios and even some west coast movie experience, approached the idea with more organization. He actually sent in a head shot and his acting and production credentials, and was chosen for the part as a news reporter. Neither Hickson nor Hibler knew much about “Gone Girl” going into the experience. Neither had read Gillian Flynn’s novel, but being movie fans, both were familiar with the director of the film David Fincher’s work. Though the film includes an all-star cast including Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Emily Ratajkowski, and Tyler Perry, Cape Girardeau was center stage as its moody backdrop along the Mississippi River. In the film, Cape Girardeau is playing North Carthage, MO. Flynn, herself, is originally from Missouri. Filming took place in about 30 locations in Cape Girardeau about a year ago. “The filming took place in October, but in the story, it is supposed to be July,” ex-
plained Hibler. He noted that made filming sometimes a challenge, and sometimes uncomfortable. “There were days like this week, where it was actually cold. But we couldn’t dress for the cold because it was supposed to be July,” said Hibler. Both said they loved the experience, but it had its challenges. “There were people there who had a lot more acting experience, some of them professionals, but in the end, Fincher was looking at every extra for a certain look,” explained Hibler. “Luckily, I looked like a news reporter to him.” “Yeah,” laughed Hickson. “And luckily, with my long hair, I looked to him like a guy who would hang out in a bar!” That wasn’t too far of a stretch for Hickson, who is also a long time area musician who…. you guessed it….plays in bars a lot. Both were very complimentary of the way Fincher, the actors, and the production staff treated the extras. There has been speculation as to whether there will be a sequel to “Gone Girl.”
“The ending was just perfectly open,” explained Hibler. “The audience was meant to be left wondering what the future will bring for the characters.” Likely, the city of Cape Girardeau is hoping for a sequel because it’s estimated the filming brought about $7 million to the Cape economy. When the film premiered in Cape Girardeau, it was literally a red carpet event. But both Hickson and Hibler saw the film in Poplar Bluff. Hickson said he still remembers arriving downtown and seeing the whole hillside of the Common Pleas Courthouse covered with people, a lot of them hoping to get a glimpse at the stars of the film. “That’s when I knew this was going to be big,” said Hickson. Fans agree it was the adherence to the novel that made the film great. When Flynn wrote the book, she actually had Cape Girardeau in mind as a setting. Fincher agreed that Cape was the perfect location because the setting had to include some suburban development, a historic downtown, and the misty Mississippi River.
Marvin’s Room to be Performed at Tinnin Fine Arts This Weekend By Tammy Hilderbrand Director Tim Thompson of Three Rivers’ Center Stage says it never occurred to him what a topical play “Marvin’s Room” is for October, which is highly recognized as cancer awareness month. “I wish I could say I planned that,” laughed Thompson, “but it honestly never occurred to me.” Thompson recalls that he first saw the play at an International Thespian Festival in the early 1990’s. It was later made into a movie starring Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Diane Keaton, Hume Cronyn, and Robert DeNiro. Thompson said he immediately loved the play because of the glimpse “into the human condition.” It was written by Scott McPherson, who sadly never really got to see the impact of the play. He died at age 33 in New York of AIDS-related complications. The play is actually about how a family deals with cancer, another life-threatening illness. Any family who has dealt with critical illness will recognize their story in this story. McPherson wrote it in such a way that it poked some fun at the American institutions of family and the medical profession, and even the psychiatric profession. “Really what McPherson was writing about was the love of a family, even when that family has its share of dysfunction,”
explained Thompson. None of the characters are perfect, each fighting their own personal battles, including the doctor, struggling to run a medical practice giving professional care, in less than perfect conditions. Thompson notes that his cast comes from students and instructors from the TRC campus, as well as members of the community, of all ages and backgrounds. The cast includes Gaelle Freer as Bessie; Steve Lewis as Dr. Wally; Brenda Russell as Ruth; Michael Starnes as Bob; Misty Everett as Lee; Karemenah Ad-
ams as Dr. Charlotte; Davis Summers as Hank; Christian Todd as Charlie; Meagan Woodruff as the nursing home director; and Michael Starnes as Marvin. “This story is about people, and how people react under some very stressful situations,” concluded Thompson. “Anyone who has ever been through a serious illness in their family knows that even in the very worst situations, there is always some humor. People can be at their worst in those situations, and at their very best. Usually we see both. And often in those moments we find ourselves laughing at
one moment, and sometimes crying in the next. That’s because we are human, and that is exactly what this play is about.” “Marvin’s Room” will be presented Friday and Saturday, Oct. 17 and 18, at 7 p.m. at the Tinnin Fine Arts Center. A 2 p.m. matinee will be Sunday, Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10, or $5 with a valid Three Rivers student ID. Tickets are available at the Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce, the Financial Services Office at Three Rivers, or at the door.
PHOTOS OF FALL CONTEST
In Southeast Missouri, autumn is revered. It's the time of year when brilliant color surrounds us. Bright orange pumpkins find themselves on every neighborhood door step. Bonfires, hoodies, and football games remind us that a little bit of chill in the air can be exhilarating. It is in that spirit that we announce our first â€œPhotos of Fall Contest.â€? We want to see what gets you excited about fall. It might be your favorite walk through the woods. It might be picking out Halloween costumes for your little goblins. It might be a romantic hay ride beneath a shining harvest moon. All photographers are welcome to enter their photos, whether professional or amateur. You can submit as many photos as you want, but there will be a $5 submission fee per photo. 1st Place wins bragging rights, $75 and the right to pick their favorite charity as the recipient of the pool of fees gathered in the contest. 2nd place wins $25 and will also have six honorable mentions. All fall photo contest winners will be printed in the centerfold in November. So go ahead! Warm up that apple cider, cut a piece of pumpkin pie and get your camera out. You're going to need some energy to shoot all those fantastic photos! Deadline for submissions is October 31. Go to semo.net/photocontest to upload your photos and pay your entry fees.
Poplar Bluff to Get New Public Radio Station member of the Black River Radio Board,” recalled Krakowiak. “We thought Poplar Bluff Schools was a natural fit for a public radio station.” Krakowiak said one of the things the group has done is to look at existing communication systems that have a school component, such as the Current River Career Center in Doniphan. “We looked at how the digital media, radio, and TV broadcasting programs were being coordinated, and we liked what we were seeing there. That gives us some terrific ideas to start with here,” explained Krakowiak. Both Smith and Krakowiak noted that the basis of this station will be public service. “We really want to promote community and culture in a non-commercial way,” said Krakowiak. Smith agreed the station will provide fantastic opportunities for local groups and organizations who serve the community to get their message out to the public. Smith said Black River Public Radio is also looking for ways to involve Three Rivers College. “There are just so many possibilities to involve education,” said Smith. “This would be an excellent
By Tammy Hilderbrand
Poplar Bluff is about to get its own public radio station, said Robert Smith, one of the founders of Poplar Bluff’s new “Black River Public Radio.” The radio station is taking its initial steps Saturday, Nov. 8 with a fundraiser to be held in the upstairs ballroom of Cape Arrowhead, 502 Vine Street. Smith explained about $10,000 worth of equipment needs to be purchased to get Black River Radio on the air. Tickets for the Nov. 8 event will be $20 each and will include hors d’oeuvres, wine and entertainment provided by “The Millstones,” a band made up of local musicians: Wally Duncan, Elizabeth Engram, John Engram, Blake Wade, and Dan Jackson. The group plays music from the 60’s, 70’s, to modern pop music. They’ve played at local venues such as The Rodgers Theatre, The Wine Rack, Ray’s at Kelso and Eagle Pass Winery. A cash bar will also be available at the event. “We’ve obtained our 501C3 status to be approved for tax-free status,” explained Smith. “And basically we’ve got 18 months to get this started, or we’ll have to ask for an extension with the FCC.” Smith is hopeful they can be up and running within about a year. “We can’t really start out as an NPR (National Public Radio), because their program is very expensive. But we can start out with local program-
ming as our emphasis. Over time, we hope to build up to include NPR programming,” said Smith. Because community service and education is going to be a cornerstone of Black River Radio, Smith said the group is currently talking with officials from Poplar Bluff Public Schools about incorporating students who have an interest in communications into the radio station. As a matter of fact, Smith said the group would be very pleased to have the station set up on the PBHS campus. Tim Krakowiak, Communications and Marketing Director for Poplar Bluff Public Schools, is equally excited about the idea. “When I started my job with the school system a couple of years ago, I was asked to serve as a
opportunity for area students who are interested in Communications.” Though it may be take some time before NPR programming could be implemented, that is a worthy goal. NPR is a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to a network of 900 public radio stations in the United States. It produces and distributes news and cultural programming. Though individual public radio stations are not required to broadcast all NPR programs, most public radio stations aspire to provide some NPR programming, such as the group’s popular “Morning Edition” and ‘All Things Considered,” two of the most popular radio programs in the country. Member stations are required to be non-commercial or non-commercial educational radio stations. They must have at least five full-time professional employees, operate for at least 18 hours a day. Each station receives one vote at the annual NPR board meetings.
Continued from page 5 "The Nothing Like It Chicken Sandwich has become very popular here,” she said. The sandwich is made with fresh chicken salad, cranberry, smoked Gouda cheese and Granny Smith apple slices served on Texas toast.
The Ladies of N’Style Galleria
The Loft Coffee Area THE LOFT After Jonesboro, Ark., native Brian Crawford retired from Lowe's, he knew he was too young to sit around and watch paint dry. Instead, he bought an old building in downtown Dexter and began applying paint himself. He modeled and remodeled, ordered furniture and dry goods from Europe, coffees and teas from places some folks can't pronounce, truffles and candies from faraway lands and opened a store perhaps best described by Louis Carroll as "curioser and curioser."
Brian Crawford (The Loft and The French Market) is, without a doubt, the most creative man I've ever known. His places are just beautiful.
PEGGY BARKS THE BUNNY PATCH He called it The Loft. That was about five years ago, he said. Then, just when the place was a bright star in its infancy, came the dark time. "We lost the store to fire in 2012," he said. "It burned to the ground." The blaze began adjacent to his store and spread quickly, he said. Rather than throw in the towel, Crawford rolled up his sleeves and began to rebuild. He bought the property where the fire started and remodeled it into an outdoor patio where his guests might enjoy their sweets and beverages outdoors. The store is a wonderland for each of the five senses. "Eclectic," is Crawford's single-word description of The Loft.
SEMO TIMES agrees. Visitors to The Loft better have some time on their hands for shopping. Unless you might be the person on the go who stops in every morning for coffee, or to visit with the latest addition to The Loft's family, Zeke, a very friendly King Charles Cavalier Spaniel. From designer jewelry, French truffles and chocolates, custom blended teas and coffees, bric-abrac and furniture to the store's own designs – like the stately English front doors and restoration furniture – The Loft defies description and must simply be experienced. "It is so different," Crawford said as he surveyed his masterpiece. "We were able to bring so many aspects of other places, other stores, other cities, here to Dexter. "We are very pleased with that," he continued. "We have a very nice mix of the old and the new. They interact to create The Loft." THE FRENCH MARKET Cooks from far and wide gather here to survey the more than 350 spices and unlimited mixes arranged on floor-to-ceiling shelves. Owner Brian Crawford, who also co-owns The Loft just across the street, was inspired to reinvent the former drug store into a modern day cooking extravaganza. "Most of the shelving and stuff was here when we bought the building," he said. "Including the old apothecary jars and glass items." Folks who visit The French Market find scores of items for cooking and entertaining, including spices lining row after row and displayed along the store's long walls. "When I visited Saint Charles, there were these neat spice shops, and I thought that was a great idea for Dexter," he said. "People like the way we scoop out the spices from the glass containers and place it in metal tins. Of all his spices offered, Crawford said his Green Bean Seasoning might be his most popular. "It's got brown sugar and bacon pieces in it," he hinted. "A wonderful southern blend of spices that people here really love." Despite the vast array, Crawford said he is pleased to discover his store is selling "a little" of all of it. "It makes for a wonderful place to shop for those
who enjoy cooking," Crawford continued. "We don't offer just the same four or five spices everybody uses. We are here for everyone. If they need those four or five, they'll find them here. But what happens when they find spices five and six, or more? That makes us really happy when they find what they need here."
THE BUNNY PATCH When a pageant, prom or formal approaches it's time for a visit to The Bunny Patch. Owner Peggy Barks' shop enjoys mainstay status in downtown Dexter, and has serviced generations of patrons for 27 years. On Monday, SEMO TIMES found Peggy at the back of her temporary location, sitting at a sewing machine designing custom fittings as she has for a couple of generations of clients. Her large, 8,000 + square-foot shop is in the midst of renovations, she
"We have tux rentals, shoes and other accessories, too." Beyond her "extensive inventory" lies the jewel of the crown. "We offer friendly and courteous service," she said. "We have in-house alterations. "Most customers know when they come here, the dress is going to fit," Barks continued. "I have no idea how many dresses I've made. Thousands. Thousands and thousands. People I've served are bringing their grandchildren here." That kind of personal service is what continues to bring people to The Bunny Patch in search of the perfect gown, she noted. MR. CHARLIE’S Charles West has been in downtown Dexter for a long time. He now operates “Mr. Charlie’s” at 22 East Stoddard Street. “I’ve operated a store downtown for 40 years,” explained West. For many years, he had stores in both Dexter and Malden. At one time he had both a furniture and shoe store. “Then I retired, or at least thought I’d retire,” said West. But, once again, he was drawn back to downtown Dexter. He said it’s a hard habit to break. “Downtown Dexter has gone through a lot of stages over the years,” said West. It’s had boom times and then times when things weren’t looking so great. But it has always managed to survive, and now, he said, it is actually thriving. “It’s the unique stores we have, and the way we work together,” he explained. “That is what gives us a sense of community. We’re like a big family. We help each other. We watch out for each other. And we support each other.” He admits that is hard to find these days. If you tell someone you are going downtown to see Charlie, they might ask you, “Which Charlie?” They mean, “Charlie? Or Charlie’s dog, also named Charlie?” West admits his dog, Charlie, is more famous than he is. That’s because Charlie is an unusual dog. He can count. He can add. He follows every command West gives him with a gleeful wag of his tail. Charlie was a shelter dog, a unique combination of Chihuahua and Boston Terrier. “He was only eight weeks old when I got him. Charlie won me over right away,” recalled West with a smile. Now Charlie, 11 months old, and his not-soold owner, Mr. Charlie, are both bona fide stars of downtown Dexter.
Dexter is not short on industry, either. The surrounding industrial businesses account for approximately 1793 jobs in the community. Listed below are the companies and the number of years they have been in the area.
explained. After so long in the same location, Barks decided her store could use a face lift. "I don't have even half my inventory here," she said. "It will be very, very nice when we get back there." The Bunny Patch sells fashions for all kinds of formal events, Barks said. "Most of them custom made," she noted. "We sell prom, pageant and bridal gowns.
Donna West and Dexter’s Ben Franklin By Tammy Hilderbrand There is nothing that fits the description of “Americana” more than an old fashioned “five and dime” store. There was a time when almost every small town had a “Ben Franklin” store, a five and dime named after the famous American forefather who declared “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Not many Ben Franklin stores have survived in our country, but one does in Dexter. “This store, originally Weber’s Variety Store, was founded in 1909,” explained Donna West, now the store’s manager. Then in the 1930’s, she said, it became “Weber’s Ben Franklin.” West said the stores are franchised, but now less than a hundred “Ben Franklins” still survive nationwide. The store is still a “five and dime,” but specializes as a crafts source. “And this store has always been in downtown Dexter, even on the same block, though the original store was probably only about half this size,” said West. She started working at the store when she was just 18 years old, fresh out of high school. She hadn’t really expected to make it a career. “I thought at the time I’d eventually move to the city and probably get an office job,” she recalled. But she stayed and hasn’t ever regretted it. “I’ve been here 52 years now,” she
smiled. “And I really never wanted to leave.” “I started out as the candy girl at the candy counter” in 1962 she recalled. In 1972, she became an assistant manager and, about ten years later, the manager. To this day, the store still is owned by the same family, after three generations. “I can’t think of a family that could be
better to work for,” said West, referring to Ernest and Joe Weber. She added that she has worked at the store through two generations of owners. Because it has come to be recognized for its craft supplies, West said it is not at all unusual to have shoppers come from out of town. Why do they come to shop at a small store in a small town rather than a big chain store? “Some people like to do their shopping on a smaller scale,” she explained. “We try to always greet people like family, and we’ve become known for our framing, floral, and fabric supplies and our prices are very competitive.” Ol’ Ben would be proud.
Metro Gallery By Tammy Hilderbrand Erin Brown has a passion for art. That’s why she opened Metro Gallery at 1 East Stoddard in Dexter. “I come from a family that has always loved art,” she explained. She also loves Dexter. That’s why she opened Metro Gallery and Powder Room & Boutique in Dexter. And, she believes in bringing the world to Dexter through her goods. “We have jewelry and art here from all over the world,” said Brown. “Our jewelry artists come from Turkey, Africa, and from all over the U.S. It is all handcrafted.” The Metro also carries hand-crafted candles, pottery and, even, goat’s milk soap. “We go on road trips to find these treasures,” she said, in addition to their annual buyers’ markets in Atlanta and Dallas. The Metro has also hosted art classes for her customers. “We feel very blessed to have many great artists in this area, like Michael Clippard, who is such a wonderfully talented wood carver, and Tammy Clark, a local potter,” said Brown. “We pride ourselves on our timeless treasures. Part of the fun is in finding
them, and the other part is getting them to our customers,” laughed Brown. And, she says, in her store she works hard to have something for every person and every budget. “Basically you can come here and find a great gift for anyone, ranging in price from $3 to $3,000. And whatever you choose, I can guarantee it will be unique, and it has a story behind it,” added Brown. To her, the story is everything. Even her building has a story. “This building housed the very first bank in Dexter,” she said, pointing out the original tile floors. “I want everyone who walks in my story
to take home something that they love, something unique. I want them to have a sense of where that item came from and the story behind it. It’s the story that makes it special.”
The Woods Home in the Woods
By Paul Woods This week’s column will venture into a different direction than normal as I intend to give some wisdom from the Woods that gets away from hunting and fishing. How about flower growing? Our house is at the end of a private lane off Butler Co. Road 415 and there is timber lining the driveway all the way to the house. When visitors approach the driveway, they see a sign that lists some of the items available from Maggie’s Farm & Hatchery. Maggie is our great-granddaughter and approaching her third birthday. Their house is less than 100 yds. from ours and that little rascal routinely visits us with her dogs in tow. When we moved out here in 1979, there was no garden spot; no house but several outbuildings the previous owner had constructed as he had a small hog operation. We bought a small mobile home we used while our house was being built. Our home is a two-bedroom, one bath, and is covered on three sides by dirt, so it’s what
has been termed an earth-shelter home. We use both electric and wood heat and the heating bill isn’t bad as the interior of the house usually stays around 70 degrees without too much of a fire. Elaine, my wife of almost 60 years (anniversary on Halloween), loves to spend time with her flowers. She also keeps chickens and guineas. Three years ago she decided that she would like to enter some of her flowers in the Butler County Fair. The first year she took 20 exhibits and won 19 ribbons. In my years of competition in the wild coon hunt sport, I never approached that kind of success. The next year she, again, exhibited 20 different flowers and came away with thirteen ribbons. This year wasn’t as dramatic, but she came home with 2 blues, four reds, and five whites. She also helped our great-granddaughter Willow with an entry which won a blue for best of its class and a purple for best of show in the youth division. Not too bad for a farm that grows big rocks without using fertilizer.
The key wisdom that I pass along is to get good potting soil and some professional advice from someone like John Hobbs’ Nursery. Elaine helped out there when they were located in Poplar Bluff and learned a lot about growing plants from them. The first year of showing was a learning experience. The rose she entered won first place and our great-grandson Brayden said it was because it was God’s rose. We had planted some roses at our church, Westside Church of God, and when the roses at home weren’t so hot, Elaine clipped one from the church, so it was God’s Rose that won. We have one very unusual house plant; an Aloe Vera that is commercial grade and is nearly four feet tall. Everyone who sees it has never seen an Aloe that size. Rain played havoc with the UKC events last weekend in the area. Butler County Coon Club has a hunt at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. deadline for registration while Ripley County has both a show at 6:30 p.m. and hunt at 7:30 on the 18th.
Mills Iron & Supply, Poplar Bluff, Mo
Duck season is just around the corner and at one time it competed with coon hunting for the top of my hunting list. Several nights I hunted until nearly midnight and was back in the duck blind by 5 a.m. That was on my day off during the week. My hunting buddy in the blind was my foreman at the DAR, Herb Piper. We spent many days in a duck blind and some of those hunts will be highlighted in the near future. Fishing tournaments are nearly over with the Current River Smallmouth Classic last weekend. Crappie fishing on Lake Wappapello and Clearwater is usually good during deer season and a lot of hunters fish in the afternoon after hunting in the morning. While getting ready for church Sunday, a hummingbird came to our window searching for food. Our feeders were taken down, but it took Elaine a couple minutes to refill some. When she got the first feeder hung, a hummer came right up into her face, probably to say thanks.
117 S. Locust, Dexter
By Brian Becker For most of my life, if someone would tell me they were eating in Dexterw my mnd instantly wondered if it was Hickory Log or Dexter BBQ. These two restaurants feature the iconic flavors of hickory-smoked barbeque that made dry-rub famous in these parts, earning their reputations as the very best. But now, the mention of Dexter has a Pavolovian effect on my pallet after one meal at Dhafer’s Mediterranean Steakhouse. After several days of being in downtown Dexter; enjoying getting to know the owners of the local businesses and interviewing the city administrator, chamber director, college director, I stopped at Dhafer’s for dinner. In one meal, this restaurant’s personality, charm and cuisine sent it soaring to the top of my list of best places to eat in Southeast Missouri. Dhafer is from Iraq and spent three years in a Saudi refugee camp from 1991 to 1994. Many of his cooking skills came as he prepared meals for other friends and families in the camp. In 1994, he came to the United States. His first job at Marriott-West in St Louis was a pivotal one; the chef took him under his wing and transformed him from dishwasher to sous chef. From there, he worked as executive sous chef at several casinos and his culinary skills sharpened even further. From 2003 until 2011, he was employed by U.S. Special Forces and worked a
short stint with the U.S. Embassy for Bagdad. During the last two of those years, Dhafer’s wife, Melissa, set aside as much money as possible each month to pay for restoration and remodeling of a building they had purchased in downtown Dexter. Dexter was a very good location for their restaurant plans because Melissa grandmother was from the area. Dhafer proudly looked around and said, “It looked nothing like this. Melissa did all of this
work while I was in Iraq.” When he returned in 2011, Dhafer’s Mediterranean Steakhouse opened for business. Dhafer’s menu is laid out very simply and as I opened it the Bruschetta jumped off the appetizer’s page and onto my table. Dhafer uses vine-ripened grape tomatoes with fresh basil, garlic and olive
oil. The Bruschetta is served on toasted baguette slices. The first thing you notice about the food is how fresh it tastes. Not just the produce, but everything tastes as though it was prepared right that second for you. “I buy it all fresh; the fish, the certified Angus beef as well as the vegetables. They are all prepared fresh.” I ordered both the steak and lobster and the sea bass for entrees. I couldn’t resist ordering the creme brulee and Melissa’s amazing pumpkin cheesecake for dessert. The steak was a thick, lean sirloin cooked medium; it was tender and full of flavor. Though the server asked if steak sauce was needed, salt wasn’t even needed. It was seasoned perfectly and tasted amazing. Simply, amazing. The lobster was served above-shell; it was delicate and precisely the flavor one expects when they order lobster. One of the great surprises of the entrée was actually the green beans and roasted red potatoes. My words won’t do them justice. They can’t. Just go…and order them. The mashed potatoes were equally
amazing and I have to believe that this is what all red potatoes want to be when they grow up. The sea bass was as it should be; moist and easily separated into bite-sized tenders with a fork. Dhafer’s buerre blanc sauce accentuates the lightness of the sea bass elegantly, and in my opinion, cannot be outdone. The slight pan-seared crunch on the top and bottom of the fillet were an added texture for my palate to enjoy. Dessert was just as spectacular and a perfect punctuation to the meal. Again, words fail the flavors that Dhafer and Melissa create. My final jaw-drop of the evening was the bill. Ordering the specials of the day, I had no idea what the prices would be. The bill was nothing compared to what I expected in our area let alone what one would pay in metropolitan areas. My steak and lobster was only $27.95; the sea bass was $23.95. Dexter and the surrounding area have a true gem of a restaurant in their midst! I hope this fine establishment continues to thrive as I am looking forward to frequenting it monthly, even if the trip, for me, rounds out at 125 miles. It’s worth every mile. As I was leaving Dhafer temptingly said, “You have to come back, you haven’t tried my pork chop.” Oh, I’m coming back, Dhafer, and I’m bringing lots of friends and family with me.
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October 16, 2014