Swisshelm bankruptcy tops SBJ.net in 2012

Geoff Pickle, Web EditorAnother year is gone, and with it, an interesting 12 months in business news has passed.

But the implications of the most viewed SBJ.net stories will continue through 2013 and beyond.

Without further ado, I give you the top viewed stories on Springfield Business Journal’s website in 2012. Note, to keep the list largely focused on the news of the year, I excluded SBJ.net’s event pages, honoree profiles and special notices.

1. Restaurateur Swisshelm files for Ch. 7 bankruptcy

In March, Springfield businessman and restaurateur Bruce Swisshelm filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, setting off a domino effect of closures and purchases.

Bruce Swisshelm

Bruce Swisshelm

Swisshelm, who had served as CEO of the Swisshelm Group, owned and operated businesses including the San Francisco Oven franchise on Sunshine Street; area Macaroni Grill and Ebbets Field restaurants; and McAlister’s Deli franchises in Florida. The Swisshelm Group also had held the local Burger King franchise rights for nearly 33 years before selling them in 2007 to Duke and King Acquisition Co.

In the bankruptcy’s fallout, San Francisco Oven was taken over by Springfield businessman Gordon Elliott; the south-side Ebbets closed while the center city location sold to a group of investors; and Macaroni Grill shuttered its doors.

2. Branson Landing, convention center damaged by tornado

During the early hours of Feb. 29, an EF-2 tornado hit Branson, tracing the Highway 76 strip east into the city’s downtown area and Lake Taneycomo.

The Leap Day tornado put the Branson Convention Center and attached Hilton Hotel out of commission for several months, dipping into the city’s prime tourism season. Many other businesses were affected, including Candlestick Inn and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre.

The Branson Convention Center and the attached Hilton Hotel were put out of commission by the Leap Day tornado.

The Branson Convention Center and the attached Hilton Hotel were put out of commission by the Leap Day tornado.

The Branson Convention Center reopened in May and the attached hotel opened nearly seven months after the tornado in September.

3. Springfield developer to build $3.9M Arkansas river resort

Early last year, Springfield developer Steve Stinnett announced intentions to build a $3.9 million fly fishing resort along the White River in Cotter, Ark.

The developer, who owns SL Stinnett Co. and formed Seasons on the White LLC for the resort, planned 30 suites, a restaurant, seven private riverfront cabins, a pool, a boat dock, a professional fly shop, fly fishing classes and a team of professional guides.

Stinnett told SBJ this morning the project was put on hold in August when the development ran into financing issues. He said he is still planning to develop the lodge, and he will be revisiting the project in the next few months.

4. Businesses to continue in wake of owners’ deaths

In September, Environmental Works Inc. founder, owner and President Robin Melton, 46; Missouri Insulation & Supply Inc. President John Lambert, 44; and Lambert’s three children died as an aircraft John Lambert was piloting crashed while approaching Springfield-Branson National Airport.

John Lambert and his three children were killed in a plane crash near Springfield-Branson National Airport.

John Lambert and his three children were killed in a plane crash near Springfield-Branson National Airport.

The wreckage of the small aircraft, a Cirrus SR22, was found about seven miles northwest of SGF.

Both Lambert and Melton had established ownership trusts, which continued after their deaths. A board of directors also was established at EWI after Melton’s death.

Environmental Works Inc. founder, owner and President Robin Melton died at age 46.

Environmental Works Inc. founder, owner and President Robin Melton died at age 46.

5. BKD CEO to resign

Former BKD LLP CEO Neal Spencer announced last February he would retire from the Springfield accounting firm’s top position, effective June 1.

Spencer, who took on the role in mid-2007, was succeeded by Ted Dickman, who had served four years as regional managing partner coordinating operations in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. Dickman manages the firm from his office in Indiana.

6. Movie Review: Locally filmed ‘Winter’s Bone’ offers chills, redemption

Though the review for the Ozarks-shot “Winter’s Bone” was written and published in 2010, the piece finds its way into the Top 10 because of high placement in Google search results.

The review also was linked when its author, longtime Springfield Business Journal movie reviewer and musician Jim Wunderle, died in October at age 59.

7. OSS shuts down after Mercy purchases

Orthopaedic Specialists of Springfield closed in August after Mercy purchased the OSS building at 1151 E. Montclair St. and the assets of the company for undisclosed amounts.

Mercy purchased the OSS building at 1151 E. Montclair St.

Mercy purchased the OSS building at 1151 E. Montclair St.

The move eliminated roughly 70 jobs, and the group’s nine physician partners took positions at Mercy, CoxHealth and Ozarks Community Hospital.

8. Southwest Airlines to fly at Branson Airport

In early 2012, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines confirmed it would convert AirTran Airways operations at Branson Airport to its own red-bellied planes.

Now, officials wait to see if the “Southwest effect” will pull BKG out of debt when the Texas company’s planes begin flying out of the airport this year.

9. JQH Hotels names new senior VP, general counsel

John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts announced in April Springfield attorney Greggory Groves of Lowther Johnson Attorneys at Law LLC would join the company as its senior vice president and general counsel.

Groves succeeded Justin Harris, who stayed on in a consulting role to pursue unrelated family-owned and startup business ventures.

10. Day in the Life with Doug Pitt

The popularity of this story can be attributed to Google search results placement, as well as an ad campaign featuring the Springfield businessman and philanthropist.

Pitt has been featured in a number of ad spots for Virgin Mobile Australia, showcasing the co-owner of ServiceWorld Computer Center as the down-to-earth younger brother of Hollywood actor Brad Pitt.

Doug Pitt was featured in SBJ's 2011 Day in the Life series.

Doug Pitt was featured in SBJ’s 2011 Day in the Life series.

The SBJ story was part of the summer 2011 Day in the Life series, which documented a typical day for Doug Pitt.

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