Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Mardel Christian & Education plans to open this week. Next door, the new Hobby Lobby might make it in time for Christmas.

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Mardel Christian & Education plans to open this week. Next door, the new Hobby Lobby might make it in time for Christmas.

The stores are going in northwest of Bass Pro Shops in the bustling commercial area of southeast Independence. Although a hotel, restaurants and stores are hoped for at the Bass Pro site – east of I-470 and between I-70 and U.S. 40 – these are the only developments to come along since Bass Pro itself opened in February 2008.

Hobby Lobby, founded by David Green, and Mardel, founded by his son, Mart Green, are affiliated companies, both based at the same location in Oklahoma City but run separately. It’s not unusual for them to be located next to one another. Another affiliated company, H.L. Construction, builds the stores.

Mardel, which sells Christian books, CDs, gifts and other items, has only one other store in the area, in Overland Park. The company says it wants to open this week – preferably ahead of Friday, the biggest retail day of the year. It will be a little more than half the size of the Hobby Lobby next door. The company has 33 stores, three-fourths of which are in Texas and Oklahoma.

The new Hobby Lobby will be 44,739 square feet, a little smaller than the usual 55,000 square feet. It will replace the store that’s closing at 14121 East U.S. 40 – behind Ruby Tuesday and across the highway from Hy-Vee – about three miles to the west. The company says the new store gives it greater visibility.

“We don’t have a grand opening date yet,” said Kristen Carder with Hobby Lobby in Oklahoma City. The company has 434 stores, including 16 in Missouri. It’s opening about 25 stores this year and hopes to do the same in 2010. Carder said each store has a classroom for events to teach things such as painting, quilting and cake decorating.

Let me add two personal notes.

First, give Hobby Lobby and Mardel a little credit for taking Sundays off. How many other retailers put what they see as doing the right thing ahead of another day of sales? Don’t get me wrong. Like a lot of people, I struggle with this issue. Despite trying to treat Sunday like Sunday – not a second Saturday – I like to eat a meal out or catch a movie on Sunday, and I’ve been to a Chiefs game or two, all of which cause others to have to work. But at least the Hobby Lobby and Mardel folks are doing what they can, and that’s encouraging.

Second, since we’re talking about the Bass Pro area, I must confess it’s possible I’ve contributed to the Lambert’s rumors. Really, it’s all an innocent mistake. Normally it’s our job to replace rumors with facts, but sometimes just asking a question can set things in motion.

Here’s the background: Lambert’s is the “home of throwed rolls” – and, yes, they do throw them at you or least to you.  It’s a fun place, and the portions are huge. The restaurants are in Sikeston, Mo., Ozark, Mo., and Foley, Ala. I’ve eaten at the one in Sikeston twice, both on Sundays just after church gets out, and it’s a packed house with a long line. It’s worth it. Wouldn’t one fit nicely in Kansas City?

Here’s the story, or at least the part I know anything about: Three of us from The Examiner were headed south for a Katrina relief trip in February 2006, and our group stopped at Lambert’s in Sikeston. I had the small chicken-fried steak, and it about did me in. We were munching on fried okra – they bring that around too, with molasses – chatting about the obvious popularity of the place and about Bass Pro and how much sense this would all would make, and then we said something to a server, who said, come to think of it, they’re talking about that very thing.

There you have it. A total shot-in-the-dark question answered by a source who really was unlikely to know one way or the other. Still, it was intriguing and worth a follow-up. The paper has asked the question a couple of times, with fuzzy, yeah-that-would-be-cool responses.

Well, that’s nearly four years ago. Still no Lambert’s, and it doesn’t look as if it ever will happen. If it does, I’m taking credit. But I’m not sure I’ll be up to the chicken-fried steak.