By Kimberly Zerkel | [email protected] | Aug 4, 2023
Downtown Joplin can now anticipate construction on the second of two new buildings on the west side of Main Street’s 900 block.
It is one of the first new buildings built on Main Street in downtown Joplin in decades.
Katherine Moss DeGraff, founder and president of Guru Marketing, said that the future Moss-DeGraff Building will consist of two separate buildings joined together by one large courtyard in order to create a multipurpose campus. Two buildings, owned by and named after her and her husband, Brad DeGraff, were always part of the plan, she said. Construction on the northern building is underway, and its windows were installed in mid-July. To the south, fencing has been put up to prepare for the second building’s foundation. And the couple has just purchased the lot south of the intended campus for further expansion.
The Moss-DeGraff Building will be a hybrid of commercial, residential and green space. Katherine said Guru Marketing will move its offices there as soon as feasible. The marketing firm currently rents office space in Joplin above Red Onion Cafe at Fourth Street and Virginia Avenue, as well as in California’s Bay Area.
In constructing their own offices, they also hope to attract more working tenants on the ground floor, as well as residents in high-end lofts on the upper floor. The courtyard will be more than just a passageway from one building to the next but will be an outdoor space for tenants, restaurants, cafes, food trucks and the occasional pet to enjoy.
The site for the Moss-DeGraff project was once occupied by three buildings that had stood in Joplin since its early days, all part of a designated historic district. There was the 1900 Rains Brothers Building at 906 S. Main St., the 1914 Carl Adams Building at 912 S. Main St. and the C.R. Davis Groceries, Flour and Feed Building at 914 S. Main St.
The Rains Building was destroyed by fire in 2012 and the Adams Building collapsed later as a result of its weakened condition from losing a support wall shared with the Rains building as a result of fire damage.
Brothers Charles and George Rains, who had been mine operators in Galena, Kansas, operated a hardware store in that building which later housed the Mineral Hardware Co. and the Roosevelt Hotel. Largely vacant by the 1970s, the building was used for years by antique dealer Ray Rose, who operated Rose Antiques in the first floor.
Next door to it, a wall of the Carl Adams Building at 910-912 S. Main St. was left exposed by the Rains building fire. It collapsed in 2013. That caused the city to also condemn the next door C.R. Davis Groceries building at 914 S. Main St. as a dangerous building because of structural issues.
What started as a leap of faith for Katherine has now turned into a major pivot in downtown Joplin’s history. After returning to her hometown of Joplin from California, she began renting and working downtown. But she said that she and her husband soon realized that they wanted something of their own instead of just rental property. While they loved many of the historic buildings they toured, ultimately they longed for the freedom that would come with constructing and customizing their own space.
It was while driving past the 900 block one day that she felt moved to investigate the “little patch of grass” where the Moss-DeGraff Building is now being constructed. To her delight, she found that many who owned nearby businesses or who were affiliated with the area were church acquaintances, able to help her further investigate the potential investment.
“At that point, it started to feel meant to be. It was all God’s plan for us,” she says.
The road to bringing the building to completion has not been without its challenges. The Moss-DeGraff Building began in 2020. The arrival of the pandemic slowed down the project significantly, especially due to shortages in the supply chain.
Throughout, Katherine has remained optimistic. “You can’t fail if you keep trying,” she said with a smile.
She said her optimism is higher than ever as she imagines future tenants in both the ground-floor commercial spaces and luxury residential lofts on the top floor. The courtyard in between is inspiring and Katherine hopes it will play host to pop-ups and food trucks, particularly with healthier or lighter fare such as vegan offerings or quick salads to go.
The Moss-DeGraff Building is part of the continued growth in the 900 block in downtown Joplin and an example of new construction blending with the historic, such as the Muir and Willard buildings on the east end of the block. Restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, clothing stores and a gym coexist in this neighborhood.
The Muir Block was recently awarded Best Historic Preservation Project by Missouri Main Street Connection Inc. The ceremony honors communities, individuals, businesses and organizations from across the state that have completed exemplary work in downtown revitalization.
Located at the southeast corner of Ninth and Main in downtown Joplin, the Muir and Willard buildings were bought and restored by Lori and Jeremy Haun starting in 2016. The Muir was built in 1891, while the Willard, the southern building, was built in 1901.
Earlier this year, the Hauns were recognized with a 2023 Preserve Missouri Award, which recognizes outstanding efforts and projects in historic preservation.
Further proof of the block’s success is the expansion of Hungry Monkey Island Style Eats. Owner Daniel Campbell said he now plans on converting the back room of his poké restaurant into something both fun and informal. The chef from Maui is going to install swings, patio-style lounge chairs and couches, and more for those wishing to linger a little longer while enjoying their Hawaiian fare. Table seating will continue to be available in the front and a newly-finished back patio will also provide available space for those who prefer outdoor dining.
Campbell said he enjoys the hip and urban feel that comes with a more centralized and historic space and that he’s happy to see how well island-style cooking has been received in Joplin. He also said he believes having his business on this growing block creates an experience that contrasts with what people can currently find in other neighborhoods.
Other signs of expansion include the arrival of The Clay Cup, a coffee, tea, and pottery shop whose flagship store is located in Neosho. Their Joplin location is now installed inside Coley’s Cookies and offers light breakfast fare, such as sandwiches, as well as beverages.
Above ground, apartments and lofts in both the Muir and the Willard are at full capacity, with more in the Eureka Flats Building on the 800 Block on the way.
Those interested in renting commercial space, loft apartments or using the courtyard of the Moss-DeGraff Building should contact Katherine DeGraff at Guru Marketing or visit mossdegraffbuilding.com for more information.
Source: The Joplin Globe