Branson Businesses Continue to Bounce Back from Leap Day Tornado

By Lindsay Clein , Lex Smith |

Published 02/28 2014 04:10AM

Updated 02/28 2014 10:09AM

BRANSON, Mo. -- Nearly two years since a tornado tore through Branson, the city has made tremendous progress.

The swirl of the tornado on February 29, 2012 tore apart and damaged homes and businesses.  Two years later,  however, city workers say business in Branson is up and they're hopeful for the year ahead.

"It was a difficult day for us two years ago when the tornado came through Branson," says the city's Economic Development Director Garrett Anderson.

With the sweep of that tornado came the sweeping away of dozens of businesses.

"It wasn't totaled," says Shoney's General Manager Justin Stiles.  "But the damage was very extensive."

"We got a phone call and someone said the theater was gone," says Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater General Manager Jeannie Horton.

The city issued $12.5 million in building permits the year following the tornado.  This past year, another $4.5 million.

Driving down Highway 76 in Branson, you'll notice the city is pretty much back to normal.  Most damaged businesses are back and running with new and improved buildings.

"It's not a new town," says Stiles.  "But it kind of has a new look.  A lot of places have brand new buildings like us, the Jubilee, Pricechopper."

The Branson Shoney's is one good example. 

"This building would with-stand a 200 mph burst," says Stiles. "So it's a lot stronger than the building we had before."

The restaurant re-opened last July.

"We've got all new equipment and a whole new building," says Stiles.  "So it's worked out to our advantage."

Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater sustained extensive damage as well.  The theater reopened six weeks after the storm.

"I'm sure we lost business the six weeks we were scheduled for shows," says Horton.  "But we ended up having a good year."

Despite a rough road over the past two years, business in Branson is thriving.

"Overall business is up," says Anderson.  "Sales tax and tourism tax are both up this year by three percent, so we are doing very well."

Branson has gone from devastation and destruction to facing optimism as the city finalizes the rebuilding process.

"I think it's going to be a great year for Branson," says Anderson.

Branson's Auto Museum is one business currently putting the final touches on its building.

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