It’s hard to get anything past Rosie Jo Griffin, but her friends and family managed to surprise her with honor and recognition.
Rosie Jo’s Cafe, an Ozark mainstay since 2001, won the Ozark Business of the Year Award at the Ozark Community Awards Banquet organized by the Ozark Chamber of Commerce and the Finley River Community Foundation, and sponsored by Youngblood Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram.
The look on Griffin’s face when her restaurant was announced for the award was as legendary as the fried chicken Rosie Jo’s is famous for.
“I was very surprised,” Griffin said.
While the business has changed through the years, including two moves, Rosie Jo and her family recipes have been constant.
“We do everything, everything from scratch. We hand bread the onion rings, mushrooms, pickles, chicken fried steaks and chicken fried chicken. We just do everything from scratch. Not a whole lot of people do that anymore,” Griffin said.
While her most loyal customers will swear there is something magical happening in the kitchen, Griffin said it’s the staff and the customers who make Rosie Jo’s an Ozark institution.
“Good customers, good friends—you know, I have people that eat in there every day, and they’re not just customers, they are our friends,” Griffin said.
Rosie Jo’s opened on Sept. 13, 2001—two days after terrorist attacks forever changed the scope of American existence. At a time when people in Ozark were exceptionally hungry for some comfort, Griffin opened her restaurant with a menu full of home cooking at the corner of Jackson Street and Third Street, at what is now the Purple Burrito.
Two years later, Rosie Jo’s moved up West Jackson Street to a spot now accompanied by a Kum & Go gas station. In June 2016, Rosie Jo’s moved again, this time to a location on South Street just east of the U.S. Highway 65 interchange by Walmart.
The move, Griffin said, Brough about more traffic with potential customers passing by the restaurant each day.
“It was a good move in that regard, just because there is so much traffic coming from Sparta and Bruner, and all the way down there,” Griffin said.
Brad Jackson, owner of Hometown Print House and a former Ozark mayor, helped nominate Rosie Jo’s Cafe for the award.
“They are very dedicated to our community,” Jackson said. “One of the great things that I can say about this business is no matter how tough things get, they always have persevered.”
Ozark City Administrator Steve Childers presented the award to Rosie Jo Griffin on behalf of the city of Ozark.
“They are here in Ozark serving all of us. They truly love this city, the city that we love,” Childers said. “Those people stay here, and they believe in Ozark and they work here in Ozark, and they do everything they can to give back to this community.”
Bruce Galloway named Citizen of the Year
Bruce Galloway, an alderman and an attorney who operates Bruce Galloway Law Office on the square in the downtown Ozark, received the 2019 Ozark Citizen of the Year Award.
Galloway, who moved to Ozark a little more than 15 years ago, said he was drawn to Ozark because of the values in the community and the leaders he noticed as he explored the city.
“I look out into this room and I see all kinds of citizens of the year. I know many of you and I know that you take on behalf of the city,” Galloway said. “This community is a very special community because of its people, its location, its history, and I’m very glad to be a part of it, and gratified that I was welcomed in this way.”
M. Elise Crain spoke on Galloway’s behalf moments before he was announced as the award winner.
“If you saw the scales of justice, you’d see (Galloway’s) image superimposed on the scales of justice. He is someone who is fair, who is honest, who has great integrity and really cares about this community,” Crain said.
Ozark Community Awards 2019
2019 Business of the Year: Rosie Jo’s Cafe
2019 Ozark Citizen of the Year: Bruce Galloway
2019 Ozark Chamber Star of the Year: Mike Hayward, Liberty Utilities
Ozark Firefighter of the Year: Jacey Snider
Ozark Police Officer of the Year: Taylor Wheeler
Helen Hawkins Award for Teacher of the Year: Jenny Curtis
Karen and Dennis Miller Secondary Teacher of the Year: Betsey Rice
Ozark Schools Volunteer of the Year: Brandon Sears and Pat Sears
Ozark Schools Support Staff of the Year: Sue Walker