By Bill Althaus
Friday morning was just about the same as most mornings for Todd Johns and his Plowboys restaurant in Blue Springs.
A few minutes before the doors opened at 11 a.m., the parking lot was getting full and the line of customers snaked its way throughout the hottest barbecue joint in Eastern Jackson County, at 3111 S. Missouri 7.
But this was a different morning as Johns and his partner, Todd Johnson, Plowboys chief financial officer, were celebrating their grand opening.
“This is a pretty big day,” said Johns, a former American Royal Barbecue Grand Champion who spends between 15 and 18 hours per day at Plowboys. “If I can get through it without crying I will consider it a success.
“I’m not going to be able to look at my wife Audrey this morning, or I know I’ll lose it.”
Johns and Johnson put a business plan in effect several months ago, and Plowboys has exceeded their wildest expectations. The line of barbecue customers forms at 11 a.m. and remains until closing at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
“It’s dropped off a bit, but that was to be expected,” Johns said, “but we’re still running double what we anticipated. Double? We just can’t believe it. We are so thankful.”
And so are Plowboy fans, who range from neighborhood residents, the Fort Osage High School football coaching staff, who make a pre-game stop each Friday afternoon, to Central Hockey League MVP and scoring champion Sebastien Thinel, who makes the weekly drive from Independence.
“This is just amazing,” said State Rep. Sheila Solon, who was part of the ribbon cutting ceremony and who lives within walking distance of the restaurant. “This was a blighted area before Todd and Todd came in and brought us Plowboys, now, it’s the talk of our community.
“Todd lives in our neighborhood. He wanted to do something special for South Blue Springs. It just shows that if you offer a community real quality it will be a success. Every time I drive by Plowboys the parking lot is full.”
Plowboys received national notice even before it opened. Because of Johns’ reputation among professional barbecuers, he received a call from the “Barbecue Diva,” Danielle Dimovski, who hosts the Travel Channel’s BBQ Crawl television program.
“Todd knows everyone, that son of a gun,” Johnson said, “and when we got the call from Danielle we couldn’t believe it. They feature one restaurant (per state) and last year it was Oklahoma Joe’s. This year, it’s Plowboys. And when she called, we hadn’t even opened our doors.”
Thinel and his Missouri Maverick teammates will be at Plowboys when they tape the episode on Oct. 3.
“Todd is a season ticket holder and great fan and he has always shown us support,” Thinel said, “so we want to support him anyway we can. Besides, when we come here, we get to eat the best barbecue in the country.”
Johns left a successful technology career to open his own restaurant, and while the hours have been demanding and the stress has caused more than a few tears, he knows he made the right decision.
“All the manufacturers want to be a part of Plowboys,” Johns said, referring to the businesses who supply buns, ham and french fries, “because they know Todd and I have a business plan. A lot of businesses don’t. I think that’s why we’re been so successful.”
Johnson disagrees, a bit.
“It’s Todd, our workers and our great barbecue and side dishes,” said Johnson, grinning like the cat that swallowed the canary. “We had someone ask why we run out of certain foods. And I told them, we don’t run out, we sell out - and there is a difference.”
Solon and many members of the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce and City Council took part in the ribbon cutting ceremony that also featured members of the Johns and Johnson families.