The Supertam on 66 ice-cream shop and Superman memorabilia museum in Carterville, Missouri, has developed a following from tourists who hail more than 7,000 miles away.
Owner Larry Tamminen told the Joplin Globe newspaper his store is prominently listed in a Chinese-language Route 66 guide. That would explain why Tamminen suddenly has greeted more than 600 Chinese tourists since early 2015. Before then, it was just a smattering of folks from that populous Far East nation.
“So I guess I’m famous in China,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m probably on TV in China somewhere.”
To show his gratitude, Tamminen has learned bits and pieces of the Chinese language. When visitors from that country walk through the museum’s front door, he’ll greet them with a smile and a “Nǐ hǎo” — hello in Chinese.
They are usually stunned to hear their native tongue spoken in rural America, Tamminen said.
“They like it when I make the effort,” he said. “It’s nice for them to hear their language,” he said.
When they leave, he’ll give them a wave and a spoken, “Xièxiè” and “Zàijiàn” — thanks and goodbye.
Just about everyone has reported more Chinese tourists on Route 66 in recent years as China gains more wealth for its citizens. With China’s population of 1.35 billion, Route 66 is bound to draw more than a few Chinese with spending money.
He also gets plenty of other Route 66 tourists from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and the good ol’ USA as well.
The Supertam on 66 shop combines Tamminen’s two interests — Route 66 and Superman. He collected more than 3,000 pieces of Superman memorabilia over the decades. He added the ice-cream part of the business to give travelers more of a reason to stop.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest-seller flavor of ice cream is the Superman, made in bright red, yellow and blue flavors.
Tamminen’s a pretty great reason to stop at Supertam on 66 by himself. He’s bubbly, hospitable and enthusiastic. After marking the store’s 10th anniversary in June, he seems to be having great fun greeting visitors from all over the globe, and I doubt he’ll stop anytime soon.