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Ground was broken earlier this month to commence a multimillion-dollar project in Sparta that officials are dubbing “a luxury guest ranch.”
Finley River Outpost LLC is expected to be a $10 million-$12 million investment, said Chad and Tiffanie Shook, who are developing the project in three phases on a portion of their 212-acre Shook Farms LLC property. Chad Shook said he and his wife are in the process of relocating their bison and Clydesdale farm to Sparta from its 20-year home in Springfield.
Their 22 head of bison were on-site at the Feb. 10 groundbreaking, while he said only one of their seven Clydesdale horses was at the event, as a barn is being constructed to house them.
The couple bought the Sparta property, a portion of which runs along the Finley River, for an undisclosed price last year from friend Jared Stover. However, Shook said he didn’t originally envision Finley River Outpost for their new acquisition. The project’s planned amenities include a wedding venue, outdoor pavilion, cabin rentals, covered “glamping” wagons and a saloon-style restaurant and bar, according to officials.
“This idea has just evolved,” he said. “We knew the owner, and we decided to come tour it one day. We fell in love with the property.”
Sparta Mayor Jenni Davis and Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe were among local and state officials at the groundbreaking, which took part on the site of the planned wedding venue.
“The Shooks have made it clear that this development is not just your typical commercial expansion but one with preservation, conservation and appreciation for agriculture and the Ozarks at its heart,” Davis said at the ceremony.
‘Eggs in one basket’
Tiffanie Shook said their family, which includes two sons, will soon be living in a renovated farmhouse on the Sparta property. Chad said they recently sold their 23-acre Springfield farm for $1.1 million to David and Stacey O’Reilly. The Sparta site is located southeast of Springfield at 3830 State Highway 125.
“We’re putting all of our eggs in one basket here,” Chad said.
While the couple opened a real estate business, Outpost Real Estate LLC, last year, Chad said they are focusing much of their time on the new project. He previously worked for Jack Henry & Associates Inc. and Mossy Oak Properties, a national real estate franchise.
Phase I calls for a wedding venue, called The 1803, and an outdoor pavilion, dubbed The Woodson. Named for the year of the Louisiana Purchase, The 1803 will be designed to accommodate up to 200 people between its main floor and balcony area. The Woodson pavilion, which uses outlaw Jesse James’ middle name, is expected to hold up to 80 people, officials say.
Chad said he expects the first phase’s cost will be roughly $4.5 million, noting Torgerson Design Partners LLC are project architects. A general contractor is yet to be selected, although he said construction crews from the Magnolia Network’s documentary series “Barnwood Builders” will be handling some of the work. That includes construction of The 1803, which will be built in part with historic and reclaimed barnwood.
“They’ll be here in April. They’re going to be doing timber frame for the pavilion down on the river, and they’re going to build a covered bridge,” he said.
The pavilion should be ready by late spring, Tiffanie said, although events are not yet being booked.
“We hope to have the wedding venue open by the fall,” she said.
However, Chad said the wedding venue already has a few bookings in 2024.
“I feel comfortable with them being that far,” Tiffanie added with a laugh. “Anything closer, I just don’t know yet.”
The television show plans to film two episodes in April, and these will likely air in May or June, Chad said.
He said the connection to “Barnwood Builders” was forged last year after he and Tiffanie reached out to the show’s host, Mark Bowe. That led to the couple traveling to the show’s West Virginia home and meeting the team of builders.
“We told them we have a blank slate, the project we wanted to do, and you can pick what can be good for the show,” Chad said, adding he is paying for the materials in exchange for the crew coming to town to build the structures and film the construction process.
Kristen Haseltine, president and CEO of Show Me Christian County, said the economic development organization connected with the Shooks a couple of months ago.
“They had a lot of plans already started, but we’re connecting them with partners such as White River Valley Electric Cooperative to get their utility work figured out,” she said.
Haseltine said she’s gotten to tour the property and learn of the couple’s vision for the project. Part of that is emphasizing the importance of agriculture, as the Shooks want to incorporate horseback riding, river recreation and a shared garden into the guest experience.
Also in Christian County, agritourism is a focus of Finley Farms, a development owned by Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris. The Ozark development, which debuted in 2020, includes a farm, restaurants, coffee shop and event space.
“We’re excited about the agritourism part. We’re also equally excited to be part of the community,” Chad said during the groundbreaking ceremony. “Part of what we’re going to do is partner with local schools and organizations and have kids out here, FFA programs and stuff like that out here, to help the children understand what goes on at a place like this.”
Haseltine said the benefits of such a project can reach beyond the borders of Finley River Outpost.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to expand to where people are coming into Christian County,” she said. “It isn’t just coming into this wedding venue here or eventually when they have the restaurant. It’s them coming into Ozark and possibly Sparta, too, to fill up on gas and see other assets that we have.”
The timeline for the next two phases is uncertain, the Shooks say. Design concepts for the cabin rentals along the river and tents for glamping are yet to be complete but Chad said they plan to have four of each to start.
The saloon-style restaurant and bar will be located next to the wedding venue.
“We’re going to sell bison steaks, and I raise quail, so we’ll have quail, farm fresh eggs – everything locally,” he said. “We’ll probably start out with only guests that can come up and use it. We’ll have an old-style saloon with Wild West doors and self-playing piano.”
Chad said they have no desire to rush through the project, recognizing it to be a multiyear development plan.
“We’ll do it right and everything will be high end,” he said.
Purple Panda Filipino Food expanded; T-Mobile made its Ozark debut; and the first Queen City branch for Poplar Bluff-based First Midwest Bank opened.