The owners of a popular coffee shop and restaurant in Arkansas City are expanding into Missouri.
Randy and Ruth Ryel are planning to open a second Steamy Joe location in downtown Branson, Mo.
Randy said that he and his wife both love the Branson area and have visited several times each year during their 43 years of marriage.
Ruth has always wanted to open a store there.
“My wife gets these ideas and dreams, and it’s up to me to work them out,” Randy said with a laugh. “I’m a good husband. I take care of my wife and I want her to follow her passions and dreams.”
The Steamy Joe at 216 W. Central Ave., opened Oct. 8, 2015 and has become a popular eatery and hangout for locals and Cowley College students and employees.
It took about 12 months to renovate an 111-year-old residence into a destination coffee house. The project received funding from Cowley First through the Cowley County E-Community Loan program.
Ryel said his wife and two of their grandchildren traveled to Branson in July to celebrate a birthday. They visited Ruby Lena’s Tea Room when they discovered the building was for sale.
“She’s done this to me before with a location in Branson,” Randy said. “I didn’t take her too seriously because the last one wasn’t going to work.”
On a later trip, Randy looked at the tea room location and also spotted potential. The store is in the main business district.
He contacted a realtor and began negotiations with the owner, but found the price a bit high.
“Branson’s property is pretty expensive, whether you buy or lease,” he said. “We kind of fiddled with the numbers, but it just wasn’t the right timing for our shop or our family.”
Two months passed and Randy said the owner contacted him. She checked out Steamy Joe’s online and was convinced that they should put a store at that location.
“She told us, ‘You’d be perfect here. You would do so well.’ She really wanted to work something out,” he said.
They worked out a commercial lease for a few years, Randy said. “She made me an offer I could not refuse.”
But making sure the Ark City location would continue to operate smoothly was a major concern. Randy and Ruth planned to move to Branson and needed to have a qualified person take over the store.
Youngest daughter Emily Maharjan seemed the perfect fit. She has always been an entrepreneur, Randy said, and has worked for several restaurants. She has also been an assistant manager at Maurice’s in Winfield.
Randy said his daughter also has a passion for making improvements and growing the business, and a strong knowledge of marketing.
“Emily’s been ready for this for a while,” he said.
Randy and Ruth will continue to work in Ark City through Christmas. After the first of the year he will move to Branson for remodeling.
The transformation should be much easier than the Ark City location, Randy said, because the Branson spot has already been set up as a restaurant.
His wife expects to join him in February.
“Emily will be the manager of the shop. I consider myself the general manager and my wife is the owner,” he said with a laugh.
He hopes the new Steamy Joe’s location will stand up to the competition and hopes to see some of his friends from Ark City.
“We know the people who love us here in Ark City,” he said. “They travel to Branson occasionally, so we’ll be excited to see them there.”