Faith leads business owners to start new ventures amid pandemic

Updated: Sep. 8, 2020 at 9:40 PM CDT
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HEARTLAND (KFVS) - Across the Heartland new businesses are opening their doors, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In Jackson, Mo., the Chamber of Commerce said the city is growing.

In May, SEMO Crawfish started serving lunch and dinner at a building they constructed along Jackson Boulevard.

The owner, Amy Jo Hunter, said it’s a labor of love turned into a boilhouse and full-fledged restaurant.

“My husband is the one who started it,” Hunter said. “He fell in love with crawfish. His father lived in the French Quarter and he would go and visit.”

Ben Hunter started raising crawfish on a farm west of Sikeston as a hobby.

For some time, the Hunters would sell crawfish to the community using social media.

As the popularity of crawfish grew, Amy Jo saw an opportunity to do even more.

Banning together, Amy Jo and her family set out on a mission to connect the community to a part of southeast Missouri’s culture - The Great Swamp.

“Honoring that swamp ground that was there and keeping that history alive through... this wood and the crawfish like I said all came together on that Himmelberger farm and so we want to tell that story,” Amy Jo said.

The tables inside SEMO Crawfish are also made from wood reclaimed from the Little River Drainage District, which emptied the swamp.

“So people can feel it and hold it because when it was dredged up it would be lost forever,” Amy Jo said.

Amy Jo explains faith is what charges her forward to serve up a history lesson and a meal amid a worldwide pandemic.

“Some might say we are a little hard-headed and that’s okay because it’s going to take someone that’s hard-headed to get through this COVID,” Amy Jo said. “It takes a lot of prayer.”

Jeff Pierce said faith is also leading him and his business partners to open Atomic City, a family fun center in Paducah located in the former Fleming Furniture building on Hinkleville Road.

“About three years ago a very good friend and co-owner Brian Pickett came to me,” Pierce said. “He just had this vision from the Lord, actually just to be honest with you. He was awakened in his sleep and he felt led to bring something like this to Paducah.”

Atomic City will offer electric go-carts, laser tag, mini glow golf, arcades, a kid’s play area, birthday party rooms, and food. The 44,000-square-foot complex will also include Pierce Productions TV Studio and storefront.

The owners of both SEMO Crawfish and Atomic City said these uncertain times aren’t keeping them from opening something new and exciting for the community.

“I knew this was god’s plan,” Amy Jo said. “I could feel it within all my being. It wasn’t like a new pair of shoes kind of charge. It was a heavenly charge.”

“God’s just opened door after door after door and we have just followed that lead from him,” Pierce said.

However, they are taking extra safety measures.

At SEMO Crawfish, diners must wear a mask to enter the restaurant, and tables are spread out. Amy Jo said they also constructed a patio behind their building that overlooks a creek so that people have the ability to dine outside.

Pierce said they plan to open Atomic City by the end of the year, however, the COVID19 pandemic might impact the start day.

He said they will not open if it’s not safe, and when they do open they will abide by local and state guidelines to keep people healthy.

You can follow Atomic City of Facebook for updates on when the facility will open.

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