Business is booming in Belton in recent months.
Earlier this spring, the walls went up seemingly overnight for one of the community’s largest new tenants, Academy Sports + Outdoors, near the intersection of Interstate 49 and Y Highway.
The Texas-based retailer is a sports, outdoor and lifestyle retailer that operates more than 175 stores throughout the United States, and expects to be open in Belton by early August.
And during a recent Cass County Coalition meeting on May 8, Belton’s Community and Economic Development Director Jay Leipzig didn’t go into too much detail, but announced initial plans that several other bigger businesses were making plans to come to their corner of Cass County.
While things may be looking up for large developments throughout the city, Belton’s Main Street is also experiencing it’s own growth.
Art Ruiz, president of Downtown Belton Main Street, Inc., said Main Street businesses are currently occupying about 75 percent of the buildings in the corridor -- up from about 50 percent a few years ago after the economy sank.
“We’re always looking for and encouraging folks who are looking for an affordable space to come to Main Street,” Ruiz said.
Belton is in their third year of a Missouri Main Street revitalization project, an effort initialized by city councilmembers to improve the look, feel and business opportunities to the area.
Their effort seems to be making a difference.
“It’s becoming a more vibrant community in its own way,” Ruiz said. “It’s a constant effort to maintain the integrity of the street and keep the moral up.”
In addition to his position, Ruiz has also taken a personal interest in Main Street’s recent growth -- opening his own restaurant in the corridor.
Partnering with another downtown business owner, Richard Smith, of R S Diecast Collectibles, the duo opened Rich N Art on Main, a trendy restaurant and lounge, located at 418 Main, in late April.
The restaurant is gaining a reputation for steaks, tenderloins, burgers and seafood, and a new hangout to watch a game or race on the big screen while enjoying a beverage.
He’s also trying to lure live music performances to both his restaurant and to Main Street events.
“I’m a firm believer that music attracts people,” Ruiz said.
Rich N Art’s is open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. The kitchen closes at 9 p.m.
Along with the new restaurant, at least five other new businesses have recently opened, or will soon be opening, their doors on Main Street.
Those businesses include: Eleanor’s on Main, Main Street Knives and More, Man Cave, 2 Chicks Boutique, and Bays at the Moon Pet Boarding and Barkfest.
Three other shops, Whistle Stop Antiques, End Tangles Salon, and Clean Pooch Grooming, have also expanded their businesses space.
Ann Knotts, owner of Main Street’s Ruby Red Slippers Antiques and Collectibles, who also owns several buildings in the corridor, works hard with the other retailers to bring foot traffic to the corridor.
Knotts has had a presence on Main Street for more than 10 years.
“(People) will be pleasantly surprised that they can stroll the street and window shop,” Knotts said. “All the shops are very welcoming and we enjoy people coming through to see what we have.”
Knotts said the Main Street community tries to host collaborative promotions and activities on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month.
“We have a really friendly, warm atmosphere down here,” Knotts said.
Ruiz said his recent business venture has come together in large by shop owners in the Main Street community working together.
“It’s been a Main Street effort,” he said. “Our operation couldn’t have been done without the people of Main Street.”
The restaurant’s tables and chairs were designed and handmade at Simply Charmed while others have helped decorate or offered their labor skills in refurbishing the building’s interior.
Ruiz said he’s committed to seeing the community of Belton thrive.
“If you believe in a community enough, you will invest your family, time and personal money into making a community work,” Ruiz said. “Having the pulse of the community is what leads to success.”