GLASGOW — From Stump Island Road, the 8,000 square foot white and blue steel building looks like an unpretentious warehouse. But the gravel drive and creaking gangplank lead to a complex unlike anything else in this Missouri River town.
At Rooster’s Marina, boaters can buy Cheetos at the convenience store and fill up their gas tanks after a long day in the sun. Or they can take a shower and join other visitors at the Driftwood Restaurant upstairs and treat their palates to caramelized goat cheese appetizers and sauteed duck as they sit at antique English pub tables.
Still others can visit the ballroom, just past the men’s and women’s showers on the first floor, that affords a panoramic view of the river.
What’s more, all of it floats.
“This place is a big change for most of the farmers in Glasgow,” said Joan Shiflett, who eats at Driftwood Restaurant once a week. “It’s great, but for this area, it’s a little different.”
Owner Chris Stockhorst said there isn’t anything like it in the state of Missouri.
The building was once St. Joseph’s Frontier Riverboat Casino, located about 210 miles up the Missouri River at St. Joseph.
“Buying this place was a gamble,” Stockhorst quipped.
A Glasgow resident who teaches at Hickman High School, Stockhorst had hopes of building a restaurant on the river for about a year before it opened in November. His close friend, Glasgow Mayor Ken Gebhardt, spotted the vacant casino in St. Joseph and encouraged Stockhorst to invest in it.
“I was just going to lease it,” he said. After a tax credit deal with the Missouri Farmers Union fell through, Stockhorst decided to buy the old casino outright.
“I just took the plunge,” he said.
But Stockhorst still had a problem: His investment was bobbing in the river more than 200 miles away. In September 2003, when river levels were high enough to support navigation, a tugboat guided the 420-ton casino downriver to Glasgow.
For the next year, Stockhorst renovated the casino with friends and family, gutting the interior of the structure and starting over. They removed everything, red velvet and all and began following the blueprint that Stockhorst had drawn up.
Stockhorst’s brother, Jeff Stockhorst, was instrumental in constructing the inside of the new restaurant.
“We didn’t mess anything up too awful bad,” Jeff Stockhorst said, joking. “But I’ll tell you, it was a lot of work.”
Even the restaurant’s chef-to-be, Adam Wells-Morgan from the Culinary Institute of America in New York City, was there with a paintbrush in hand. Because Wells-Morgan was hired almost a year before the restaurant opened, he was able to design the kitchen and dining areas to his liking.
“I didn’t know how to do any of this before we started,” Wells-Morgan said. “Now I know how to build a deck, frame windows and paint.”
It’s an interesting skill to add to this executive chef’s resume.
Once the inside of the building was about 80 percent finished, Stockhorst received a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to park it in its permanent location.
Stockhorst also received two grants from the Missouri Department of Conservation totaling $65,975 for fueling facilities at the marina and pump-out facilities for larger boats to dispose of waste water.
The federal grants figure into an increasing interest in the Missouri River for boating and other recreation.
“There’s a growing network of businesses along the Missouri River, and there are entrepreneurs like Chris Stockhorst scattered along there,” said Marlyn Miller, fisheries programs supervisor at the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Stockhorst’s goal was to provide a riverside retreat where visitors and local residents can spend a few hours or an entire day.
“We want to try to make this a destination point or a hub so there’s more than one thing for people to do,” Stockhorst said.
At this place, there’s plenty.
The marina is scheduled to open May 1 and will offer educational boat tours so visitors can get a sense of Glasgow’s history. There’s a campsite and playground next-door where visitors can pitch tents or just hang out. The deck behind the restaurant is perfect for sunsets.
Although there’s a lot to do, the atmosphere is serene.
“Coming to eat dinner here is kind of like going to grandma’s house,” Stockhorst said. “There are no hurries and it’s always laid back.”
That’s exactly why some small-town visitors to Driftwood enjoy it so much.
“In Glasgow, there’s the drive-in, Miss Kitty’s and now this place,” said Betsy Brucks, a Glasgow resident who met two high school friends for dinner at Driftwood. “There’s no place around here like it.”