When Heather and Michael Wood moved from Olathe to Osawatomie five years ago, they were looking for a wholesome, small-town community in which to raise their children.
They quickly fell in love with the shops, schools and people. And it didn’t take long during their first family night out to the Midway Drive-in for them to fall in love with that piece of Americana, as well.
“We had a good time,” Heather said. “We talked about how cool it would be to own a place like that.”
Then, when Heather noticed recently that the drive-in was for sale, she turned to her husband and excitedly asked if they could take the leap.
“He probably thought, ‘she’s crazy,’ but he’s along for the ride,” Heather said.
The Woods realize it’s not exactly an ideal time for a new business venture as Michael is working full-time and Heather is also working full-time from home while caring for their youngest child and three school-age children — all in the midst of a global pandemic.
Still, Heather said it was an opportunity they felt they couldn’t pass up.
“We wanted to have something in the community to call ours and support other local businesses, too,” she said.
The Woods have a lot of plans for the drive-in, but Heather said there are still a lot of things that have to take place before their grand vision can become a reality.
Ultimately, Heather said they would like to maintain the drive-in weekend evening experience while also utilizing the space for things like swap meets, car shows, weddings and other events.
The Woods have learned, though, that the plan likely will require a change in zoning, which is why they are working with the Miami County Planning Department to develop a workable plan. Heather said the hope is to have a proposal ready for the November meeting of the Miami County Planning Commission and be approved by the end of the year.
They could then have a ribbon cutting and open next spring, although Heather said it could happen even earlier as she’s heard from community members that they would be willing to attend movies outside of just the summer season.
In the meantime, the Woods would like to make some improvements to the facility, but Heather said that also may be restricted somewhat by code enforcement because several of the structures have been grandfathered in.
Heather said they realize the concession area needs work, and they do plan to fix it up, but she also envisions a scenario where local food trucks could be set up on nights the Woods aren’t able to do concessions.
“It all depends on zoning,” she said.
The Woods closed on the sale Aug. 27, and ever since Heather made it official by posting it on Facebook she said she has heard from a number of community members who have expressed their support and encouraged them to move forward with plans for other events at the site.
Heather said she and Michael want to show their support for the community, as well, and they are envisioning possible advertising opportunities during intermissions in which local businesses could air fun commercials.
“We’re hoping to work with local businesses,” she said.
As for the product itself, Heather said the plan is to maintain the classic drive-in experience, although some of the movies may change. The previous owners had a contract with Disney, which allowed for some new releases but also required that some movies be shown multiple times.
Heather said they are exploring the possibility of signing on with a new company that would give them more freedom regarding what movies are shown, although they may not be the new releases that are in theaters.
They’re also exploring the option of being open Sundays for an older audience who might enjoy older movies.
Heather said they plan to poll members of the community to gather feedback once their new Facebook page is up and running.
The Woods purchased the drive-in from Paul and Anna Dimoush, who had owned it for more than a decade.
Anna said the business became too time-consuming for her and her husband, who also farms. Anna’s health also was taken into consideration.
“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “I’ve had too many strokes and can’t work the ticket booth anymore.”
The sale was for the business and equipment, including the digital upgrades that were purchased in 2013 using funds raised from a “Save the Midway Drive-in campaign.”
“We wish them all the luck in the world,” Anna said.
The drive-in is located at 29505 W. 327th St. “midway” between Paola and Osawatomie.