Rosie Jo's Cafe, Ozark

FROM LEFT, Rosie Jo Grffin, owner of Rosie Jo's Cafe, accepts the 2019 Ozark Business of the Year Award from Ozark City Administrator Steve Childers and Ozark Chamber of Commerce director Anna Evans.

It takes an immense amount of drive, wherewithal and faith to be an entrepreneur in 2020. I’ve always admired people with the guts to go off and start their own businesses on their own, rejecting the notion of working for “the man,” and instead going into business for themselves.

I’m especially impressed by the people who have the guts to do it in Christian County.

“Those businesses—they are what make up this community every day,” Ozark City Administrator Steve Childers said.

And how. Government entities, like the cities of Ozark and Nixa and the government of Christian County, rely almost completely on sales tax revenue for funding. That means when you drive down a street, visit a park, take a stroll along a sidewalk or call the police for help, sales tax revenue is paying for it.

There’s a lot more to running a business than making a great product and selling it to thousands of people. There is a good deal of administrative red tape to cut through at the federal, state and local level to obtain the appropriate licenses and permits. You have to have a plan, and you have to be willing to adjust that plan sometimes. You have to market your product and manage all of the finances that go with running the show yourself. If you hire people, you have to make sure you hire the right people. And because people are people, you have to deal with all of the personal difficulties that can come with managing people and their personalities.

Tenya Privett, the new chair of the Ozark Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, had an interesting way of describing Ozark and its business climate at the Ozark Community Awards Banquet on Feb. 8

“As we all know, change is the only constant in life, and those who adapt succeed,” Privett said. “Ozark reminds me of a spring garden that with the right attention, leaders and direction will just quite simply continue to thrive.”

You still have to get out there and get dirty sometimes. As one young man from the Sparta High School homecoming court put it, but quoting from the 2001 movie “Joe Dirt,” “Life’s a garden, dig it.”

The flowers don’t grow themselves, not usually anyway.

Brad Jackson, himself a small business owner at Hometown Print House, spoke on behalf of Rosie Jo’s Cafe moments before Rosie Jo’s won the 2019 Ozark Business of the Year Award. 

“They are very dedicated to our community. They spend a lot of time, energy and resources by giving back to our community, never once asking for any sort of special credit,” Jackson said of Rosie Jo’s.

At the same time, Rosie Jo’s built up its brand and a loyal customer base of people willing to drive through construction traffic, driving rain and even snow to have breakfast or lunch. Many of the regulars drive into Ozark from other places just to have a good meal.

“It is very tough and difficult sometimes to be a small business in our community, but (Rosie Jo’s) is proof positive that even a small business can make a great impact,” Jackson said.

Personally, I can tell you that Rosie Jo’s is a small business that made a tremendous impact on my life. Some of the earliest and most important dates I ever went on with my wife were at Rosie Jo’s, just after I moved to Ozark in 2012. She worked overnight shifts, and I worked days and evenings. That meant breakfast was the best time we could catch up and see each other during the work week, as we both did our best to establish ourselves professionally and personally. Rosie Jo’s might not be accused of being a romantic place, but it worked for us, and we continue to go back for breakfast eight years later.

I have no doubt that plenty of other families from in and around Ozark have their own Rosie Jo’s story. If they don’t have a Rosie Jo’s story, they have stories about how other businesses here in our hometown have been the backdrop for some of the most important moments in their lives. These are the sorts of accomplishments that get lost in chamber of commerce awards ceremonies, but they are of the most importance.

Privett has a goal for Ozark to be a modern city, with homage to its past and an eye for the present.

“My goal for Ozark is to be timeless, which by definition is without beginning or end. It’s eternal, everlasting, simply ageless and generally treasured. How, you ask? Well, it offers permanence and it outlasts trends. It matters and it plays a necessary role. It’s adaptable, but deliberate by design, and can be altered again and again. It offers connections to both the past and the future,” Privett said.

That all sounds about right for Rosie Jo’s. Let’s go and get some breakfast.

—Rance Burger

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