May 24, 2011

Joplin Freddy's, Dillons destroyed by tornado

Two Wichita-area companies lost stores Sunday night when a massive tornado ripped through the southern part of Joplin, Mo.

Two Wichita-area companies lost stores Sunday night when a massive tornado ripped through the southern part of Joplin, Mo.

The Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers at 1503 S. Range Line Road in Joplin took a "direct hit," company officials said.

And the Dillons at 1402 E. 20th was destroyed.

However, three other Wichita-based companies with Joplin operations — A.G. Holdings, Wichita Technical Institute and EagleMed —escaped the brunt of the tornado.

Scott Redler, Freddy's chief operating officer, said there were no injuries inside the Joplin Freddy's.

"No employees or customers were hurt, and that's the important thing," Redler said. "We're very fortunate. We feel absolutely terrible about the destruction and loss that the Joplin community has suffered."

Freddy's franchisee Jason Ingermanson said in an e-mail that he's working to locate all of the store's employees.

"We know the status of employees that were working at the time and they are all injury-free," Ingermanson said.

"We don't have the status of all of whom were not working and it is challenging to try and locate them with the current phone situation in the disaster area. Our team is trying to catalog each employee, document a paragraph of information about their current situation, and do whatever we can to help them and their families."

Dillons officials on the ground in Joplin said their store is a total loss.

"Right now, our priority is the needs of our associates who've been displaced by the storm," Dillons spokeswoman Sheila Lowrie said.

The company dispatched a semi-trailer of essentials —water, snacks and food — to the American Red Cross, Lowrie said.

And a small team of company officials, including loss prevention specialists, flew Monday to Joplin to assess the destroyed store.

Redler said the Freddy's chain, with 52 stores, has added a link to the front page of its website,, directing viewers to the donation page of the Greater Ozarks American Red Cross.

Work continues on a donation option in each of the chain's nine company-owned stores for direct guest giving as they order.

Dillons officials are encouraging direct contributions to the American Red Cross, Lowrie said.

Hotelier Jim Korroch's Wichita-based A.G. Holdings operates a TownPlace Suites by Marriott in Joplin. He said the hotel is about a mile away from the devastation.

"The issue we have now is no running water to the hotel," Korroch said Monday morning. "We feel very blessed."

Korroch said he plans to travel to Joplin as soon as he can to provide assistance to the hotel staff.

"We'll do what we can to help the people down there get their lives back to normal."

Wichita Technical Institute's Joplin campus wasn't hit, said Rod Moore, director of education for the company.

"We're on Range Line and the tornado was south about a mile and a half," he said. "We're just fortunate. All of our faculty and staff are safe. We haven't had a chance to account for the students, yet."

A spokeswoman for air ambulance operator EagleMed said the company's aircraft and on-duty crew were not hurt by the tornado. Shelia Rupp-Haag said the company's base in Joplin is at Freeman hospital.

She said EagleMed crews and aircraft in Wichita are being used to transport patients from the Joplin area, including to Wichita hospitals, but she did not know how many patients they have transported.

"We were immediately available as a resource to the Joplin community," Rupp-Haag said.

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