Columbia Traders brings food, coffee, fun

Built in 1893 at 420 South Main Street this historic building now houses Columbia Traders.

Megan Walker

Built in 1893 at 420 South Main Street this historic building now houses Columbia Traders.

Jeff and Barbra Neal, the owners of Columbia Traders, saved one of Joplin’s once-thriving social spots from becoming an obsolete parking lot.

420 South Main Street in downtown Joplin is now home to a place of what they term “downtown history, uptown service.”

The building has an interesting past. Since being built in 1893, the structure has proven versatile. It has housed the largest retail store in Missouri, mining offices, a jewelry store, high fashion women’s clothing, justice of the peace court room and Jehovah’s Witness meeting place.

“We just knew it was cool and had to do something about it,” said Barbra Neal.

After being abandoned for approximately 40 years, Barbra Neal said the dwelling was “in quite a state of disrepair.”

The mother and son duo, along with many others, has transformed the building into a working business while keeping pieces of its history alive.

But it was not without putting a little elbow grease into it.

“We had to shovel through six inches of pigeon poop by flashlight,” said Barbra Neal. Also, in the clean up, they found three bottles of beer hiding between the floors, probably left sometime before prohibition.

Columbia Traders, the name given to this newly made over building, invites its costumers into a grocery store on its left side, a deli and coffee shop on its right and apartments upstairs.

This quaint building has much to offer to citizens of Joplin, as well as Missouri Southern students.

“We’re a great place to come get a deli sandwich and any type of coffee, even better than Starbucks, for a good price,” said Jeff Neal.

Those running low on milk, cookies or cantaloupe can stop by Columbia Traders and pick up what they need. Columbia Traders also sells coffee beans, tea, ice cream, deli sandwiches and bakery goods.

But this is no ordinary deli. On Thursday nights it is transformed into a place of what Barbra Neal calls “live music and soulful coffee.”

Every Thursday, starting at 5 p.m., with a college I.D., costumers can receive 10 percent off any specialty drink.

At 7 p.m., patrons are entertained with acoustic music from a local band. It is like Starbucks, with a twist.

The Neals said Southern students now have a comfortable place to grab a coffee, sit and relax with friends while experiencing what Joplin’s local music scene has to offer.

“So many people have had dreams and aspirations for this building, even pigeons, and we’re just one more group trying to make it,” said Jeff Neal.