Old favorite reopens with new look

Thursday, September 9, 2010
The doors opened at 5 a.m. Wednesday for the re-opening of McDonalds on Highway 60 in Monett. On hand for the milestone occasion were: crew members Josh Bower; Kitty Keeney; and Mark Keaton, John Thompson, regional construction manager for McDonald's Corporation; Cindy Liebenguth, crew member; and Jo Hannah Close and Phillip Close, owners. "We were busier than we expected," said Phillip Close. [Times Photo by Melonie Roberts]

There's a new look to an old favorite in town as McDonald's restaurant opened its doors for business again on Wednesday following an eight-month hiatus.

The former McDonald's restaurant was destroyed by a fire on Jan. 8 of this year, one of the coldest days on record. Firefighters from Monett and surrounding areas battled the blaze for hours.

"It was six degrees that day," said owner Phillip Close. "I have a whole new level of appreciation for firefighters."

The business opened at 5 a.m. on Sept. 8, exactly eight months to the day that the former store burned.

"Customers were walking up every day during construction to ask when we were going to be open again," Close said. "I wanted to open on the eighth to wipe out [the events of] Jan. 8. There was a lot of enthusiasm from the community."

The new store features the same footprint as the older facility, but space has been utilized more efficiently in the kitchen and dining areas of the building. There is also more storage capacity in the new structure.

"This is a prototype design for McDonald's," Close said. "We were able to come in with a more contemporary, upscale design."

While there is no play area for children, Close did have touch screen units installed in three locations of the dining area to keep younger customers occupied.

"Video games are more appealing to that age group now than the play area was," he explained.

Another improvement customers have commented upon is the removal of the long handicap access ramp.

"We demolished the site to the ground," Close said. "We raised the west side of the building three to four feet, and lowered the east side by about 18 inches, and the entire store is now ADA compliant."

Other improvements include the dual-lane drive through and state-of-the-art technology.

John Thompson, regional construction manager for McDonald's Corporation, oversaw progress during the rebuild. Assisting in the reconstruction efforts were Plue Construction, of St. Louis, John Neiderwimmer, project manager, and Steve Reich. Area sub-contractors included Davco Plumbing and Lauffer's Landscaping, both of Monett, Hutchen's Construction, of Cassville and Ed's Electric, of Joplin.

This store, which would have typically taken about 90 days to build, was completed in 80 days.

Opening day saw 17 former crew members returning to the restaurant, which has a total of 73 employees.

"People will be happy to see the familiar faces of our former management team," Close said.

"Monett is a great community," Close continued. "It's amazing how a restaurant can tie a community together like that, and how important it is to both us and them."

Close and his wife, Jo Hanna, also own restaurants in Aurora, Neosho and Jane.

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