Ark City coffee shop gains new operator

Steamy Joe, a coffeeshop and restaurant at 216 W. Central Ave., in Arkansas City, will be under new management in August. Bonita Watkins, owner of Simply Bake Believe in Newkirk, Okla., will operate the facility and also plans to add her bakery items to the existing menu.

Steamy Joe, a popular coffee shop and restaurant near downtown Arkansas City, will soon be under new management.

Owner Randy Ryel said that Bonita Watkins, who operates a home-based bakery known as Simply Bake Believe in Newkirk, Okla., will take over in August.

Randy Ryel said he and his wife, Ruth, plan to return to Branson in early June.

He said Watkins is very familiar with the business, having worked for him in the past, and she has been a family friend for more than 30 years.

Watkins said that she plans to move her Newkirk business “Lock, Stock and Barrel” to Steamy Joe.

The new facility will allow her expand her bakery operation in ways that she could not do at her home.

“In Oklahoma you cannot get a licensed, inspected kitchen in a home business,” she said. “Without that license, you can only do so much.”

She will be able to offer her cheesecakes to local restaurants after getting the proper license, she said. Watkins also does specialty cakes, but complex decorations are not her forte.

“I’m pretty much a greenhorn when it comes to cake decorating,” she added.

Steamy Joe, opened in October 2015, will be business as usual after she takes over, Watkins said. The established menu is what brings the customers in and will be kept as it is, except for adding some of her own products.

The Ryels opened a new location in March in Branson, but business quickly dropped off due to COVID-19.

After the Branson store returned to full staff, the Ryels came back to Ark City to help reopen this restaurant, which had been run by their daughter, but closed during the pandemic. 

 “We knew we could do better here, so basically we moved back to get this opened back up,” Randy said.

The dining area remains closed, but customers can place orders by phone for pickup at the drive through.

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