Thelma Jordan warned that eventually the floods would be too much to handle for her store on the Independence side of U.S. 24.
This month, she decided Fairmount Liquors had reached the end.
Her store of 27 years on the city's border with Sugar Creek near Northern Boulevard – a frequent flood victim for a few years now – will close at the start of the new year.
Jordan, 76, said she decided in the past few weeks to close, and posted a social media announcement Tuesday, “But I've been thinking about it awhile.”
“It's a hard decision; we have such a nice customer base,” she said. “This was always a good store.”
However, the floods from a broken culvert and subsequently overflowing drainage area not only caused her store to close for days at a time, but also damaged the parking area.
“To stay open I would have to invest in it,” Jordan said, and after tens of thousands of dollars in flood repairs over the years, that would be too much. She said she'll be able to transfer much of her remaining inventory to her other store, Jordan Liquors on Truman Road just east of Interstate 435.
The constant flood threat affected how she ordered and stored inventory.
“We had 12 bad ones (floods), and a lot of times it came up close,” she said, holding hands about shoulder width apart. “I can't tell you how many times we came in and put stuff up.”
Fairmount Liquors' issues started in July 2015, when a flash flooding forced her to shut off electricity, and subsequently discard a bunch of inventory. Many have blamed that event and several similar ones in recent years on the culvert just across U.S. 24, in the former lot of Best Buy Car Company.
In 2012, a sinkhole appeared in the lot after the culvert directly underneath – constructed in part from an old refinery smokestack, Best Buy owner Mark Cosgrove said – collapsed. The culvert carries water from the collection area in Independence underneath U.S. 24. Eventually, Cosgrove filled in the sinkhole with gravel and large rocks to prevent people from falling in and protect his water main from the exposure to the elements.
However, the backed-up culvert caused the drainage plain in Independence to overflow. Jordan's business not only flooded, but the neighboring car wash and the Full Gospel Assembly church at Northern and Sixth Street have also battled flooding, not to mention Cosgrove himself.
Independence officials have said the culvert is OK on its side. The Missouri Department of Transportation said the problem is just outside of its easement. Sugar Creek wants Cosgrove to fix it, as it's on private property, and Cosgrove has said he shouldn't be responsible.
The culvert also led to a legal maelstrom, as a couple years ago Jordan sued the car lot, MoDOT and both cities to get somebody to take responsibility. She said she plans to continue that case.
Also a couple years ago, Sugar Creek issued Cosgrove a pair of general order summonses (GOS) for impeding normal water flow by filling in the hole. A judge dismissed those, but starting right before Thanksgiving the city issued Cosgrove a series of daily GOS’s. Each summons carries a fine up to $500.
A year ago Cosgrove moved his business to the former Eagles Club lodge on U.S. 24 on the other side of Independence, but the filled-in sinkhole remains and negotiations have produced no solution.
“I'm incredibly frustrated for the people that work down there, that live down there,” Sugar Creek Mayor Mike Larson said, “and people that have to drive through there.”
Cosgrove's attorney, Martin Kerr, said a judge has to rule on a GOS before any fine occurs, and there is a hearing for the latest batch of summons scheduled for Jan. 28. In the meantime, Kerr said he's preparing a motion to dismiss those as well.
No matter the result there, Jordan is done with Fairmount Liquors.
“The first flood we lost so much,” she said. “You re-open, but you lose business because you had to clean and some customers aren't sure if you'd be open.
“I'm sad it came to this.”