, 2023-04-28 22:30:00,
NEOSHO, Mo. — Dusty Altman has seen traffic come and go on the Neosho square for 17 years, and he used to be able to set a watch to it.
From the windows of Sam’s Cellar, formerly owned by his stepfather, he would watch how cars cleared away from the square as soon as the courthouse closed, leaving behind scores of empty parking spots. The only ones filled were around the pizza place.
“Five o’clock would come around, and the square would clear out,” said Altman, now the owner of the restaurant. “There was nothing holding people except for us.”
That’s not the case anymore. A new crop of eateries has brought more customers to downtown after business hours, providing an economic draw that is affecting the square’s business identity.
Neosho’s downtown is now a dining destination, offering a variety of locally owned restaurants and other eateries. The new businesses are helping to drive traffic from other cities, with visitors finding more reasons to spend more time in the city.
Already attracted by existing features such as the High Ground Bike Preserve’s bike trails and other features at Morse Park, the restaurants give tourists a reason to prolong their visit, said Lauri Lyerla, director of the Neosho Area Chamber of Commerce.
“The square is really coming together as a place for more than the people who just work here, live here,” Lyerla said. “Now there are other reasons. We have had some of those draws for a long time, but there weren’t enough to keep people here for a full day.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Sam’s Cellar, Charley’s and The Clay Cup were the only eateries near the square.
Within the past year:
• Indian Springs Brewing Company and Briar and Thistle have collaborated for an evening dining experience, and the brewing company has added regular events such as trivia nights, comedians and musicians.
• A-Ray’s Desserts, a dessert lounge, offers a variety of sweet treats.
• Downtown Nutrition, a smoothie and juice bar, also offers a variety of teas, coffees, oatmeal bowls and waffles, all with health in mind.
• Spring Street Bar and Grill bills itself as “the steakhouse Neosho has been waiting for,” and offers standard restaurant fare including burgers and sandwiches. It also offers live music on weekends with hours of…
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