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Whataburger coming to Republic, Mo. as city growth spurt continues

Published: Nov. 24, 2021 at 6:35 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 24, 2021 at 6:38 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - One of the nation’s most popular hamburger chains that counts a certain Kansas City Chief quarterback as one of its biggest fans (and now investors) is coming to Republic.

Although the Texas-based Whataburger chain would not confirm it when contacted by KY3 on Wednesday, records with the city of Republic show that the franchise has purchased land next to U.S. 60 located between Andy’s Frozen Custard and a soon-to-be-open Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen chicken restaurant.

An email from Whataburger Senior Account Executive Alexandra Ruffo read:

“Whataburger doesn’t have any news to share at this time. We’ll be in touch as soon as there’s information to share.”

However, on its website, the city of Republic posts a “Major Project Tracker Map” that gives the public access to what projects are going on around the city.

The map currently shows 13 commercial developments and one of them, at 1371 East U.S. 60, is listed as a new commercial building (3,476 square feet) for Whataburger.

“They have a lot next to Andy’s and they’ve submitted a set of building plans that from our perspective are pretty much ready to go,” said Andrew Nelson, Republic’s Director of Community Development and Public Works. “So within a week or two, they’ll have a permit to start construction. They haven’t released their timeline for construction yet but we expect it to be moving along pretty soon.”

Founded in 1950 in Corpus Christi, Texas, Whataburger is a popular brand that’s grown to 850 stores in 14 states. But now a new investor group that includes Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes plans on opening 30 more Whataburgers in Missouri and Kansas. It’s not yet been announced if that group is part of the Republic business but Mahomes was instrumental in getting Whataburgers put in the Kansas City area because he is a huge fan of the chain from his days at Texas Tech.

“My favorite is probably the Whataburger ketchup,” Mahomes said of the chain’s jalapeño-spicy ketchup. “All the Texas people would know that.”

Republic is getting a Whataburger before many other towns including Springfield (although Springfield did have a Whataburger back in the franchise’s early years) and it’s part of a continuing growth in Republic that includes an Amazon distribution warehouse and Convoy of Hope distribution warehouse and world headquarters-training center.

Officials figured that those major additions would spark more ancillary businesses and services from new housing projects to health clinics to eating places and so far they’ve been right.

So how does Republic manage to attract businesses like Whataburger and Amazon?

“Really it’s just about the partnership more than it is any financial incentive,” Nelson answered. “It’s about making all the things available whether it be infrastructure or utilities or just processes that allow for industries to get their investment to the finished product.”

Road infrastructure will definitely be a concern around the new Whataburger which has Chick-fil-A-level traffic jams at some locations.

And with Republic’s Whataburger on the main highway Nelson expects some problems.

“I’m not saying there won’t be congestion in-and-around Andy’s and Whataburger,” he said. “I think that’s almost inevitable but we’re actively working with our partners MoDOT and the OTO to plan for improvements and expansion. U.S. 60 in general has a lot of improvements coming in 2025.”

And as for the future of Republic?

“We planning for the most aggressive of growth,” Nelson said. “The last census data for Republic showed we were around 18-19,000. But in five years I could see us being in the 30,000-type population.”

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