After five years of planning and many additional years of dreaming, Jim and Karmen Rogers, Roaring River State Park concessionaires, have announced plans for a 5,160-square-foot store to be built at the local park.
"I presented this idea to the Missouri Parks Board a long time ago and then again when we bid on the concessions at Roaring River," said Jim. "We feel this will be a win-win for everybody."
Surveying and ground exploration work has been completed at the junction of Highways F and 112 in preparation for the new building, which will be constructed where a park restaurant was previously located.
"Our clientele is getting older," said Jim. "There is not enough parking at the top of the hill where the store is located now, and many people are forced to climb the steps to buy their daily tags."
Around a half dozen park cabins are located on top of the hill near the old CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) Lodge where the store is currently located. Jim estimated that there are around 18 parking spots on top of the hill and that families lodging in the cabins utilize around a dozen of the spaces, which leaves few spots for store visitors.
"We heat and cool the store with window units and that is not very environmentally friendly," said Jim. "The new store will be larger and will serve the public better."
The new park store, which will be modeled after the store at Bennett Springs State Park where Jim also serves as concessionaire, will be more than double the size of the current 1,900-square-foot Roaring River Park store.
"The new building will be made of wood and stone and it will blend in with the park," said Jim. "It will look a lot like the Emory Melton Inn."
The new store will offer an assortment of bait, tackle and fishing equipment as well as a variety of souvenirs and collectable items, which Jim and Karmen travel across the country to find each year. Jim also plans to place a second snack bar at the new park store, which will offer ice cream and other treats.
"We built a new store at Bennett Springs in 1982 and doubled the size of the building again around five years ago," said Jim. "The show room at Bennett is around 3,250-square-foot. We have big aisles and tall ceilings. We have probably only increased merchandise by around 50 percent, but it is so much easier to get around in.
"We will probably be adding eight to 10 new employees at the new store," said Jim. "This will make service faster. Customers will not have to wait as long and people who are just purchasing a tag or a license can get in and out quicker."
The proposed store project also includes plans to construct a large open entryway similar to the entryway at the Bennett Springs Park store.
"We have a 720-square-foot open space that makes it very bright inside," said Jim. "It is sometimes brighter in the store than it is outside. This area gives people a place to drink coffee and visit. It doesn't make them feel pressed or crowded. Everyone, without exception, loves the store (at Bennett Springs)."
Roaring River's new store will be financed through a lease hold improvement agreement, which will allow Jim to rent the building as long as he retains the concessions agreement at the park. Jim will also be using some of his personal funds to finance the project.
Through a lease hold improvement agreement, a loan is made to construct the building and then a portion of the concessionaire's rent payments provide funding for state parks while the other portion of the payment is used to pay the building loan.
"We did this on another project at Bennett Springs, and it really worked out," said Jim.
With all of the initial paperwork out of the way, Jim hopes the park will be able to request bids sometime next month. He would like to see a groundbreaking ceremony held for the project near the end of July.
"We are ready to go," said Jim. "All of the paper work is done, and we have the final drawings. We are just waiting to put out bids and find a general contractor."
Jim has set Feb. 1, 2009 as the target completion date for the new Roaring River State Park store. After the new store has been completed, Jim will consider renovating the CCC Lodge to offer more lodging in the park.
"There have been lots of ideas, but I think the most popular idea has been to take it back to what it was originally," said Jim. "It was never supposed to be a store."
Jim said he believes the CCC Lodge could become the most popular lodging spot in the park.
"The state is very conscious about not having any unused space, so the building will need to be used for something," said Jim. "Plus, we think it would be a nice place to stay. Imagine sitting on that porch and looking out over the stream."