Launching Pad’s owner litters contents from restaurant’s interior onto parking lot

The owner of the closed Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington, Illinois, scattered items from the interior of her Route 66 restaurant onto its parking lot, prompting two citations from local police

The Joliet Patch reported that Holly Barker on Tuesday broke bottles of Route 66 root beer and tossed equipment and other items from the restaurant around the lot and its famous Gemini Giant fiberglass statue.

It’s an escalation of months of erratic behavior from Barker, who also threatened to kill her former business partner, Tully Garrett, in a Twitter post during the same week. More of the Barker / Launching Pad saga is exhaustively detailed on a Wikipedia page.

The Patch posted several photos from the scene and had more details in its report:

Back at the police station, Wilmington’s Deputy Police Chief Justin Dole told Joliet Patch that Barker was given two ordinance violation tickets as a result of Tuesday night’s conduct involving the destruction of property.

As for the Wilmington property owner, Barker posted photos of her police tickets on Twitter, declaring: “4 officers showed up and did not want to discuss grand theft auto, murder, child sex traffiking, nada. They acted slightly aggressive. I got upset. They left. Done. Next.”

Dole has been on Wilmington’s Police Department for the past decade. The officers “are trying to work with her, and she understands what the ordinances are. We want to see the Launching Pad shine and not go down this road,” Dole told Patch.

Another local newspaper reported last month the Joliet Area Historical Museum wanted to buy the restaurant — the Patch reports for $420,000 — and turn it into a Route 66 welcome center. The museum also offered $150,000 for the Gemini Giant, the Patch reported.

That was about the same time the Launching Pad was listed for $1.4 million on the Crexi commercial real estate website.

Barker and Garrett purchased the long-closed restaurant in 2017 and reopened it about 18 months later. Garrett no longer is involved with the Launching Pad.

The restaurant’s claim to fame is its 28-foot-tall Gemini Giant. The Launching Pad and Gemini Giant were inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 2000. Both long have been one of the biggest photo opportunities for Route 66 travelers.

John and Bernice Korelc opened a Dairy Delite at the site in 1960. It was renamed the Launching Pad after an expansion in 1965. The Gemini Giant landed there in 1965 after John Korelc saw a Muffler Man during a restaurant convention. John Korelc retired in 1986.

Morey Szczecin bought the property in 2007 after longtime owners Jerry and Sharon Gatties retired. But the restaurant struggled and closed in 2010 until Barker and Garrett emerged to buy it.

(Image of the Launching Pad Drive-In in Wilmington, Illinois, by DiAnn L’Roy via Flickr)

6 thoughts on “Launching Pad’s owner litters contents from restaurant’s interior onto parking lot

  1. This is so sad. I met her and Tully a couple years back. They seemed nice and that they had the best interests in the place. I visited once when the restaurant was open and though the food was fine, it seemed a bit disorganized with some employees working super hard in one area and others standing around doing nothing.

  2. I would love to own a table from this restaurant. The tabletops show a map of Route 66 flanked by the Gemini Giant.

  3. I feel bad for the recent owners. They put everything they had into it and were defeated. I hope the gal is able to find a way out of the current situation and move on to something else. She was a very pleasant person.

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