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Former Blue Note owner Richard King set to buy popular river spot Cooper's

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Missouri River visitors cool off at Cooper's Landing in the summer

On Aug. 7, 2016, people sit on the dock at Cooper’s Landing to cool off.

Richard King, former owner of The Blue Note and Rose Music Hall, and three partners are buying Cooper’s Landing. The deal could be finalized by March 1 or sooner.

The three other buyers in the deal are Jim Alabach, Grant Stauffer and Scott Robinson. The check is in escrow, and it’s a 99 percent “done deal,” King said Wednesday. He wouldn’t reveal the sale price.

Richard King, president of Thumper Entertainment, plans to purchase Cooper's Landing

Richard King, president of Thumper Entertainment and former owner of The Blue Note and Rose Music Hall, plans to purchase Cooper’s Landing from current owner Mike Cooper.

Mike Cooper, 70, has owned and operated Cooper’s Landing at a beautiful bend in the Missouri River for the past 30 years. King said Cooper wanted to sell the popular music, camping, dining, boat docking and fueling station to King earlier. But King couldn’t jeopardize his agreement with the buyers of The Blue Note and Mojo’s — now Rose Music Hall. Their agreement stipulated that King could not run a music venue for four years.

King said he’d heard that Cooper had a deal to sell the place last year, but it fell through. He said he couldn’t be more excited that an agreement is almost finalized, and he credited Cooper for his cooperation every step of the way.

Patrons of Chim's Thai Kitchen relax at Cooper's Landing

Patrons of Chim's Thai Kitchen at Cooper's Landing rest alongside the Missouri River on Sept. 3, 2012.

“You can’t find a better setting right there on the river like that,” he said.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Cooper said he had “mixed feelings” about selling his namesake river hangout.

Mike Cooper is the original owner and operator of Cooper's Landing

Mike Cooper is the original owner and operator of Cooper's Landing, a stretch of shoreline based on the Missouri River. On Sept. 10, 2004, he's shown sitting at the property.

“The mixed feelings are that I won’t be in charge anymore, but the exciting part is that I’ll have new opportunities I’ve never had before, a little money and a steady income from this because of the way we structured the deal,” Cooper said. “I just turned 70. It’s happy for me and nostalgic — it makes it easier for me, because I’m so comfortable with these guys.”

Cooper said he’s known King for a long time through planning events at The Blue Note for the Missouri River Cultural Conservancy.

Erich Schott takes a smoke break

Erich Schott takes a smoke break from packing up camp on Monday, August 21, 2017, at Cooper’s Landing in Columbia. Schott traveled by a combination of car and bike with his niece, two brothers and sister-in-law from Newton, Iowa to celebrate the eclipse.

“It just makes me really comfortable that the people I’m selling Cooper’s Landing to have the same kind of outlook as I do about how they want to run it,” Cooper said.

He said the buyers share his values and commitment to maintaining a connection to the community and making Cooper’s a family-friendly place.

Participants in the Big Muddy Icy Challenge leap into the Missouri River

Participants in the Big Muddy Icy Challenge jump into the frigid Missouri River on Jan. 28, 2018, at Cooper's Landing. "As soon as you hit the water, you felt it," jumper Ken Leitza said. Temperatures in Columbia were in the 40s on that day. 

Beyond a thorough “sprucing up,” King said no big changes are planned right away. “We want to get in and clean it up and give Vanessa (Mabus) the tools she needs to be successful,” King said.

Mabus, who has been managing Cooper’s Landing for the past three years, told King she runs out of food almost every night and at times she has to close earlier than she should. King said he hoped to alleviate those problems right away. Whether Chim’s Thai Kitchen would remain part of the scene was undecided, he said.

Torrey Abbott Jr., 4, and his mother Cambria, fishing at Cooper's Landing

Torrey Abbott Jr., 4, and his mother, Cambria, go fishing Sept. 2, 2013, at Cooper's Landing. Fishing "is one of those things you'd like to do all the time but can't do as often as you'd like," Cambria said. 

King also said the trailers that sit on the 1.5-acre site are problematic. Eventually, they’ll be removed to make space for his dream of a campground of Airstreams that people can rent for weekends or weeklong stays on the river. Bathrooms and showers are also a part of the near-future renovations, which he hopes will draw long-distance trail cyclists from the Katy Trail.

He also wants to maintain Cooper’s local flavor through relationships with local bands, drawing on his longtime music-booking experience and synergies with the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, which he runs.

“I think we could probably improve the stage area and make it more user-friendly,” King said.

Five barred owls are released into the wild

Five barred owls are released into the wild Sept. 1, 2018, at Cooper's Landing. Winners of a raffle got the chance to release an owl. The five owls were named Roy, Sassafras, Archer, Maple and Quincy.

After the property changes ownership, King wants to immediately apply for a new liquor license, which would allow him to add wine and spirits to the offerings — partly so he can enjoy a Manhattan alongside the Big Muddy.

“I honestly do picture I’m not going to make it anything other than it already is,” King said. “There’s 30 years of history there.”

Annika Storvick, 5, practices skipping rocks at Cooper's Landing

Annika Storvick, 5, practices skipping rocks at Cooper's Landing as she and other children played on the waterfront on Sept. 10, 2004. Owner Mike Cooper said his goal for the Landing was to create a place where families could gather and feel comfortable on the Missouri River. "When I see kids playing like that, that proves to me that I succeeded in what I tried to do," he said.

As for Cooper, he will have a five-year lease for his home on the river and will act as a consultant and supporter to King, Alabach, Stauffer and Robinson.

“For a small piece of property, it’s pretty complicated,” Cooper said.

Musician Rocket Kirchner entertains a crowd at Cooper's Landing

Musician Rocket Kirchner entertains a crowd at Cooper’s Landing on Sept. 10, 2004. Mike Cooper, the original owner and operator of the stretch of shore on the Missouri River, had for years hired musicians to play at his business.

One of those complications is the river itself, which has climbed over the road some years and flooded the property. But even in bad years, the building has remained solid.

King said he asked Cooper what he does when the floodwaters close the road.

"Naked Dave" Bandy sings a song with D.L. "Dyno" Penny at Cooper's Landing

"Naked Dave" Bandy sings a song with D.L. "Dyno" Penny on Sept 3, 2008, at Cooper's Landing. Bandy was preparing for EcoArtFest, a festival that honored the memory of Jerome Wheeler, founder of Missouri River Cultural Conservancy. 

Without missing a beat, Cooper told him, “We close.”

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

Sarah Haselhorst contributed to this report.

The men of team 'Can't Stop Won't Stop' paddle down the Missouri River

The men of team "Can't Stop Won't Stop" paddle at sunset Aug. 9, 2017, down the Missouri River into the Cooper's Landing marina. The six paddlers and childhood friends took an hour break at the landing to eat and replenish their supplies.

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