Meet Holly Barker from the Launching Pad Drive-In

outside shot of the Launching Pad

If you’ve ever ridden down the first hundred miles of Route 66, then you have seen a 30-foot-tall statue known as the Gemini Giant in Wilmington, IL. Right next to it, you’ll notice the Launching Pad Drive-In restaurant brightly lit up.

As you make your way down the “Mother Road,” this popular stop is great for you to pull over, take a quick snap with the giant, then head inside the Launching Pad for a delicious meal.

Everyone in the area knows and loves this charming roadside restaurant right on Route 66. Thanks to Holly Barker and her partner Tully Garrett, they were able to bring life back into this special drive-in that was closed down for many years.

Holly grew up in a small town in North Carolina. However, in 2017 she found herself roundtripping down Route 66 with her now partner, Tully. Both had previously lost their spouses due to cancer which later brought the two together on this exciting road trip.

Holly Baker

While enjoying this unique experience, they came across the Gemini Giant and it piqued their interest. “It sort of found us, when we found it,” says Holly.

Holly, was looking to expand her business, Grief Anonymous, and wanted a new space to hold meetings. She always had a dream of owning her own café while working her business in the back.

They noticed the property was for sale, and went for it. “We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into when we purchased it,” she says. Without wasting any time, they began restoring the entire place.

Two years later, they were able to reopen with a fresh look. She noticed right away how much the community missed this special landmark, and was really pleased to know that they were open again. First, they opened it as a gift shop, then later into a full restaurant.

Walking into the drive-in makes you feel like you’ve step back into 1950s and 60s. “We wanted to keep it as it was, and not change the foot print, look and feel,” she says. “What we are trying to create is bringing back that old school feeling. You walk in and it feels like it did back then.”

As you can imagine being such a hot spot on this important road has brought them so many visitors along the way.

Gift shop inside the l\Launching Pad  two hot dogs and two cups of soup

“We have had people from 95 different countries visit us when we first opened,” says Holly. She had no idea when purchasing this restaurant that it would become as big as it is today.

Holly has been able to touch many people along the way and has even signed a couple autographs from excited visitors. Not only is she focused on serving delicious food, but also using her platform to “help heal the world” and bring tourism into the Wilmington area.

“Being able to touch people in a positive way, that goes above and beyond what our business does,” she says. “It is cool to think about people coming back to where they have had memories, and eat real American foods.”

Running two businesses while leaving a huge impact on many people makes Holly a true inspiration. When people come visit the Launching Pad, she wants them to feel inspired to do their own thing and to follow their dreams.

For the future of the restaurant, Holly would love to keep the business within their blended families for many years to come. She also wants to be able to do everything she can to draw more history to America and Route 66.

For more information about the Launching Pad Drive-In, visits www.heritagecorridorcvb.com/Dining/The-Launching-Pad-Drive-In

holly baker and Tully garret in front of the launching pad

 

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