âThe Stripââ¦ the icon of the Lake of the Ozarks. The current row of restaurants, bars and shops didn’t look like it was years ago. The area was originally developed by companies that sold commodities for workers during the construction of the Bagnell Dam. When construction on the dam began in 1929, The Strip served as a place for workers to eat, shop for clothes, and shop for groceries. When the dam was completed and the workers left, the need for these businesses was gone. Some companies however decided to stay and launched The Strip as an entertainment space for the influx of visitors coming to the lake.
The Strip has seen many changes throughout the year, but the intention to attract and entertain visitors has remained constant. There are currently businesses that have been around for generations and others that are new to the area. The Strip regularly attracts new visitors, in addition to those who have made it a must-see for years.
Sandy Sieler, a resident of Nebraska, has been a regular visitor since 1964. At only one and a half years old, Sandy started coming with family and friends. Today, she makes the annual stop with her own children and friends.
âI remember going to the Strip when I was in grade school,â Sandy said. âThere was skeeball, an outhouse with a talking mannequin inside, the mock prison where we always had our photos taken, and the haunted motel. We always bought fudge when we were at the Strip, âshe said.
As a teenager, Sandy spent time on the Strip with her friends. Meanwhile, having fun meant walking down the street at night in their cars. âWe called the area the Dogpatch,â Sandy added. âI have a lot of good memories of being there. It was a great event to go there every year.
Mike Page, owner of Leatherman, Dogpatch, and Grandmas Candy Kitchen, has owned a business on the Strip since 1976. In 1947, Walter Tietmeyer started one of the first businesses on the Strip, Mike explained. The Dogpatch was originally a small gas station, cafe, and place to buy souvenirs. Walter continued to add more shops and attractions, including chickens playing the piano, a snake pit, and even a lion to see. In 1968, the Dogpatch Arcade was added. The Dogpatch is the oldest continuously operated store by the lake. Parents who first visited the store as children now bring their own children.
Mike noted that the area has gone through several changes over the years. Until the 1970s, the highway to the lake ran through the middle of the Strip. The Lake District first gained a reputation as a great honeymoon destination. Over time it has become known as a prime location for boating and golfing, earning it a reputation as the “Midwest’s playground”. Mike said there have been ups and downs with The Strip, but overall it has always gone well in attracting visitors.
âNow there are more restaurants and bars than ever before,â Mike said. âIn recent years, more and more family-oriented activities have taken hold. I think we’ll see more. I think we’re going to see a big resurgence of activity on the Strip. “
A visit to the lake isn’t complete without a stop and a portrait at Old Time Photos. Don Roelofs and his wife Linda Berchem started the business in 1976. Today the studio is run by their daughters Mary VanHouten and Laura Wilson.
âMy parents started the business before they had kids,â Laura said. âThey were living in Wisconsin at the time. They knew they wanted to open an Old Time Photos like the one located in Wisconsin Dells. They traveled and decided the Lake of the Ozarks would be a good place.
Laura started working at the studio when she was in high school. She left to go to college, then came back and continued her involvement. As a teenager who spent evenings cruising the Strip, she remembers only a few dining establishments in the 1990s.
âI basically grew up on the Strip,â she explained. âMy parents kept the business open for many hours. There are more things to do with the family than 10-15 years ago. The addition of so many restaurants attracted more people. It is now busy all year round.
Businessman George Tucker is responsible for some of these new restaurants on the Strip. Tucker’s Shuckers, Malted Monkey / Sushi Monkey, and Neon Taco provide a variety of options for visitors. The Sky Trail at The Malted Monkey, a big ropes course attraction, is a main draw for families.
Neon Taco, which opened this spring, occupies the space previously occupied by beavers right next to the dam. âIt’s Mexican with an attitude,â said marketing director Jacky Lockhert. âIt’s all the rage in terms of food. The general manager is from San Diego where he ran a high volume restaurant. The restaurant serves tacos, margaritas, cervezas and more.
While the Strip was only recently accessible by land, George has also made the necessary improvements to water access. There are now 43 boat cards available for boaters docked and walking to the Strip.
With the popularity of the Netflix series on the Ozarks, it was inevitable that a restaurant called Marty Byrdes would open its doors. Marty Byrdes opened its doors a few years ago, but was bought last January by Craig Wood, Monica Wood and Richard Hutchson.
Hailing from New Mexico, COVID wreaked havoc on a few restaurants they had opened there. They decided to sell everything and look for a new place to live and work. Missouri was at the top of their list of options, and that’s where they found Marty Byrdes.
Craig explained that major changes have already taken place at the restaurant. âWe are in the process of adding a full sports bar with pool tables, darts, pinball and foosball,â he said. âWe have live music every weekend and have themed nights throughout the year. We cook fresh and from scratch, and take pride in our portions. And we’re the only place on the Strip where the kitchen is open until the bar closes. Craig said their goal is to provide the best customer service, the best prices, and the best food possible.
One of the more recent additions to The Strip is Dam It Larry (and omg Vicki). Owners Vicki and Larry Giampa were the owners of Blondies from 2017 to 2020. Due to health issues, they were forced to sell. Recovered and feeling healthy, the couple decided it was time for another business.
âPeople kept saying they missed our food,â Larry explained. âSo here we are. We bought Blondies because we wanted to bring Viennese bread and Chicago style food to the lake.â The couple said their Â½ lb burgers were fresh and never frozen. Chicago-style dogs, made with Italian beef and Italian sausage, are also menu choices.
âWe’re having a lot of fun,â Larry said. “We love the growth on the Strip and we love being on that end.”
A tradition at the Lake of the Ozarks since 1953, Stewart’s Restaurant is always filled with early morning diners and those who come to order a famous giant cinnamon roll. Another historic hot spot is Casablanca, a local water point that has been around for over 80 years.
In addition to restaurants, a number of shops and boutiques are located on the Strip. One of the most unique is Dirty Girls Crystals & Rocks.
Entering their sixth year in business, owners Sharon Anderson, Mary Derringer and Susan Reinhold met at the lake and became friends. The women share a love for crystals and travel to Arkansas once a year to search for gemstones. They decided to open their own boutique, offering crystals, stones, jewelry and unique interior design.
âWe were mining in Arkansas and we were dirty and muddy,â said Sharon. âThe mine owner told us we were the best dirty girls she knew. This is how we got our name.
âThe Strip is iconic,â said Sharon. âIt has changed since I’ve been here. There are so many new businesses and it is just awesome. We love our customers and the past year has been amazing for us.
Other stores include high quality clothing boutiques like Gold + Gray and Split Arrow Boutique. Several swimwear stores and stores where you can purchase Lake of the Ozarks t-shirts are located along the stretch. Summer USA is a popular place for souvenirs, swimwear, and the t-shirt wall that everyone must check out.
No matter your age, there is something for you at The Strip. This ever-changing historic space offers a variety of restaurants and dining options, souvenir shops, boutiques, lounges, ice cream parlors, specialty shops, an arcade, water sports and even an escape room. The Strip serves as the venue for several lake events, including car shows and parades. It is the heart of the Lake of the Ozarks.