Rib Shack finds a niche for second location in Springfield
Art Turner’s journey to the Phoenix College of Culinary Arts began when he walked in the front door and encountered a woman.
“I didn’t know who she was, but I knew I wanted to enroll,” he recalls. “She just sat me down and started listening and then she said, “Let’s get you enrolled.”
Turns out she was the director of all the culinary programs, who then knew Art by name right up to graduation.
It was summer, he had just quit his job as Computer Numerical Control lathe operator in the aircraft industry, having left the U.S. Army where he cooked “on a large scale.” He had told his wife, Jennifer (“Jennie” to her friends, which is all her customers) what he wanted to do. Although she also has a culinary background, she owned her own adult foster care business.
Following graduation, Art returned to institutional cooking at several nursing homes in the Phoenix area, learning about the dietary needs of residents. “It’s a very special kind of cooking,” he says.
But what he wanted was his own restaurant. A move to Springfield followed, and Jenny found a food concession trailer in 2006, which is just where they got their start: cooking Harter House meats exclusively that they sold in front of the Republic store for several months.
“We wanted to start on a small scale and build from there,” she says. “If it weren’t for the Lord, I don’t know if we would have made it.”
Next came a permanent location at Rib Shack #1, 2963 E. Chestnut. Eight years later, the second location at 2925 W. Republic Road came at the urging of customers. Menus are the same: smoked brisket, pulled pork, ribs and chicken, hot links, along with slaw, baked beans and baked macaroni. They also serve shrimp, catfish and other appetizers. If you have room, dessert is carrot cake, sweet potato pie or peach cobbler.
See for yourself at RibShack.com, where you can place your order ahead of time to pick up at the drive-in window. Now that’s handy. The exception is large catered food orders, but they do that, too.
Even with two locations, Jenny finds time to speak at seminars to culinary classes at Ozarks Technical College. Not about cooking though, says the business grad at Memphis State University.”
“I try to convince them to start saving now if this is what they want to do,” she says. “You don’t have to get the biggest or the best of everything.”
It must be working. Art and Jennie Turner received the Small Business of the Year Award from the Springfield nonprofit Minorities in Business in February.
The Rib Shack menu is not on their menu at home. It’s more likely to be a salad, soup, chili or a sandwich.
For Art, comfort food is chicken and dumplings, which he recently prepared for a online cooking show with Chadwick Isom, a corporate chef at Hyvee in Springfield.
“I love fishing, horseback riding (they have a pair of horses stabled not far from home, but lately they haven’t had time to ride),” says Art. He also doesn’t mind a nap his favorite chair.
“Yeah, we each got horses,” laughs Jenny. “I just don’t know if they remember us.”
– George Freeman