Drury Art Major Creates a Museum that Happens to be a Restaurant
By Megan Waterman
Jim Chappell ’65, owner of Chappell’s Restaurant and Sports Museum in Kansas City, surrounds himself with thousands of pieces of sports memorabilia every day. From his collection of baseballs signed by the likes of Babe Ruth, to the torches from the 1984 and 1996 Olympic Games, Chappell owns some important pieces of sports history. But Chappell’s favorite things about this restaurant and museum, he says, are his customers.
Hailing from Keokuk, Iowa, Chappell grew up on the Mississippi River, just a few miles north of Hannibal, Mo. “I felt just like Huck Finn,” he remembers fondly. As a teenager, his favorite activities included playing basketball and baseball at the local YMCA with friends after school – hobbies which he continued when he came to Drury. Though he enjoyed socializing and playing sports, he never wanted to join an organized team. “I was active, but not organized,” says Chappell of his collegiate years. “I’m still friends with those guys I played basketball with in Weiser Gym after class and even some that I didn’t hang out with while I was at school. Drury is a place where you make lifelong friends – even if you aren’t in the same organization.”
Between shooting hoops, Chappell found the time to attend class and work toward his degree in fine arts. Edith West, the head of the art department, was an important inspiration for Chappell throughout his collegiate years and beyond. “She made me feel successful in art, and if I could be successful in art, I felt like I could be successful in anything.” Following his graduation from Drury, Chappell accepted a position with Mobil Oil, a corporate job that landed him behind a desk for 40 hours a week. “I remember writing to Edith and missing her while I was stuck behind that desk. I just felt the corporate world was not for me – I was a round peg in a square hole. I needed to be my own boss.” Soon, Chappell quit his nine-to-five job and sold insurance on his own time. He was happy in his job, but something was still missing. As a side project, Chappell opened his own sports restaurant in 1986 with no inkling of what his humble eatery would rapidly become.
Today Sports Illustrated, The Chicago Tribune and Yahoo! have hailed Chappell’s as one of the top sports bars in America. It’s easy to see why Chappell’s draws crowds; it is home to the largest personal collection of sports artifacts in any bar in the country, including over 1,000 football helmets hanging from the ceiling. The amount of memorabilia Chappell’s houses can be overwhelming, but Mr. Chappell is always happy to show customers around his place and tell them a story or two.
In honor of his great success with his restaurant and sports museum, Chappell was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame on January 27, 2013. In the midst of these accomplishments, he has not forgotten his Drury roots. Drury students pass by his name daily in the O’Reilly Family Event Center where he is listed as a donor. Chappell has also sponsored a team comprised of players from the 1979 Drury Men’s basketball championship team to play in a 3-on-3 tournament in Kansas City. Chappell says he feels great pride to be a Drury alumnus and welcomes his fellow Panthers to his establishment in Kansas City.
Whether you are a regular at Chappell’s Restaurant and Sports Museum or you are just passing through on your way back home to Springfield, at Chappell’s, old friends and new friends are brought together to share a common love of sports – and it’s delicious.