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Examiner
  • Smoke on the southern horizon

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  •  Corrected to add address of the new Plowboys Barbecue.
    By Bill Althaus
    bill.althaus@examiner.net
    Just a few minutes past 8 a.m. on a bright and shiny Thursday morning, when the first car drives by Plowboys, the new barbecue restaurant that has created a buzz in south Blue Springs.
    The driver slows down, sees the hand-drawn sign on the door at 3111 S.W. Missouri 7 – See You 9/3/13 – and drives off with a grin on his face.
    “That's the first of many,” said Todd Johns, a Midwest barbecue champion who walked away from a high-paying IT job to pursue his passion. “We'll have 30 or 40 people drive through every day – and what is it? 8 a.m.?”
    Before he can finish the sentence, a mom with a car full of kids – on their way to school – drives by, sees the sign, and whisks off.
    “It's crazy,” Johns said. “I think people are really excited about something coming to south Blue Springs. A lot of people told me that this was a bad location for a restaurant, and I couldn't disagree more. It's a great location, because I live in south Blue Springs.
    “We hope this will become a destination for south Blue Springs. We don't have that anchor like a Target or a Wal-Mart, but we're going to have Plowboys and the anchor is the people who live in this community.
    “We've hired people who live here, who love Blue Springs. My managers could walk to work – they live that close to the restaurant. Now, we just need to get this thing open.”
    The buzz is spreading miles away from its Blue Springs address.
    Johns hasn't even opened the doors to Plowboys and he is already going to be featured on The Travel Channel's BBQ Crawl, a show that features the best restaurants from city's known for their barbecue.
    “They're going to have a TV crew out here Oct. 3,” Johns said. “Not bad – they featured Oklahoma Joe's last year.”
    At a recent Fort Osage High School football practice, two assistant coaches were talking about “that new barbecue restaurant, Plowboys” in Blue Springs.
    Johns, a Missouri Mavericks season ticket holder, catered a meal during last season's playoff run. He brought enough pulled pork for 75 people and the players, coaches and a few staff members consumed everything.
    “It was so good, I dreamed about it,” said Mavs goaltender Mike Clemente, who considers himself a barbecue aficionado.
    Page 2 of 3 - Added Mavericks coach Scott Hillman: “I lived in West Texas eight years, Tennessee a few years and Kansas City the past five, so I know a thing or two about barbecue, and Todd's is second to none – the best!”
    As an electrician works in the kitchen, food vendors arrive with their wares, and his managers – Katie Verheek, Miranda Jones and Blue Springs High School grad Blair Cragg – all arrive several minutes early, Johns talks about a 13-year journey that began with a conversation with the brother of his then girlfriend, now his wife, Audrey.
    “I was the new guy in the family, and I needed something to talk about with Audrey's family,” Johns said, grinning. “So I started to talk barbecue with her brother. We didn't know anything about it, but we were both interested.”
    They took a barbecue judging class to find out what judges were looking for and entered a few competitions, and now Johns' rubs and sauces are sold throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Denmark and the Netherlands.
    As he discusses his passion for Plowboys, a car pulls into the parking lot and Johns excuses himself. Amidst all the chaos of opening a restaurant, he sprints outside, joins Audrey on the perfectly manicured ledge in front of Plowboys and waves as a school bus heads south on Missouri 7.
    “That's our new morning routine,” Johns said, as his voice quakes and his eyes tear up. “Our son, Michael, is on that bus, and he told us, 'It makes my morning if you wave to me.' So Audrey comes up from our home with (youngest son) Christian and we go in front of the restaurant and wave to Michael.
    “It's one of the best moments of each day.”
    The inside of Plowboys has a warm feel as Johns' awards, ribbons, plaques and trophies are mingled with family photos and personal memorabilia.
    When Johns pursues his passion, he does it right.
    “I courted Katie harder than I did Audrey,” he said, laughing. “She is the person perfect for the job of overall manager. She is positive, has an infectious personality and is a person I could trust with the keys, the combination to the safe – you name it.
    “It's funny, Miranda contacted me via Facebook, and she has worked for Wendy's the past 11 years. In fact, she worked at this location when it was a Wendy's and she met her husband here. How's that for a bit of irony? And Blair is a young guy who is so enthusiastic, they're all just so much fun to be around.”
    Page 3 of 3 - So, how much fun will they be to be around at 11 a.m. Tuesday when Plowboys opens its doors for the first time?
    “They're going to be great,” he said, with a touch of pride in his voice. “Look, the first day, we expect long lines and some mistakes. We're going to learn and we're going to make sure that we do it right. That's why I've hired such great people.
    “We're going to hand out comment cards – which was Miranda's idea – and let people know that we're new, and we want them to know that we care about what they think.
    “I'm a perfectionist, and I want everything to be perfect. It probably won't be for a while, but this is it. If there is a problem, we will fix it. We just ask that they bear with us, because I'm all in.”
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