The community is invited to celebrate a business and the memory of a loved man.

The community is invited to celebrate a business and the memory of a loved man.

Bud's Bait, located on the west side of Highway 96 east of Carthage, will celebrate its 50th year in business Sept. 1-8. Discount sales will last all week, ending with a customer appreciation day on Saturday, Sept. 8, with games for the kids, lunch (11 a.m.-1 p.m.) and gathering of friends to remember Bud Leeson.

Sitting down with a scrapbook, Gloria Leeson asked, “would you like to know where it all started?”

Young and in love

“It all began when Bud and I were 18 years old and we got married on a quarter bet,” Gloria said. “I was from Kansas City and didn't know anyone here, and he grew up in Carthage.”

Bud's parents, Clyde and Anna Leeson, owned and operated the Sunset Drive-In. Bud and Gloria worked the concession stand, and “didn't take life seriously,” as Gloria phrased it.

From their experience at the drive-in, Bud and Gloria opened the Snack Shop at 1218 S. Garrison (behind Ulmer's Funeral Home) and sold six hamburgers for a dollar.

“After a year, we knew that wasn't our business,” Gloria said. “Well, Bud loved to hunt and fish … We were always told not to mix hobby with business – not Bud. He loved to fish, and he loved people.”

Working under Mr. Fike, the Leesons sold bait from a filling station at 803 E. Central Ave., in 1963.

“We were down there for a quite a while, and I remember when gas was 17 cents a gallon,” Gloria said. “Well, in 1969 we moved our business from there to out here – our customers helped us.”

The second location of Bud's Bait was an old building that once sat in front of its current location just off of Highway 96. (Right before the bridge construction that is under way today.) There wasn't a picture documenting that second building, but Gloria said those were happy times.

“We had a house, a business, a Cadillac car, a boat – we had everything we needed,” Gloria said. “In 1967 we were blessed with a daughter (Wendy). Bud sold the Cadillac to get the new building. He didn't believe in owing anyone anything.”

A new life

In 1971, the family found Jesus Christ as their savior and Wendy was dedicated to the church.

“We found God was our boss,” Gloria said.

Two years later, another daughter, Melissa, was born and was Bud's “pumpkin.”
“We knew Wendy wasn't going to fish, she was going to serve the Lord,” Gloria said. “She ended up being a missionary, and she married missionary, Keith Wofford. Melissa married a preacher, David Shumaker.”

Bud kindly enforced a family-friendly business where there was to be no bad language, and no alcohol or cigarettes were to be sold.

“He always taught our girls that the customer is always right, unless they became inappropriate,” Gloria said with a smile.

Bud's Bait took on more merchandise with imports, gasoline, boats, motors, canoe rental and was one of the first businesses to offer LP gas exchange. Bud's love for children inspired a small pond behind the store that he stocked with bass. Kids could catch and release, and at the end of the year he would let them take one home. Bud and Gloria sold fireworks, furs for a short while, and even hauled walnuts in the wintertime.

“We did a little bit of everything to make a living,” Gloria said. “I did bookwork and cleaned. I helped the customers when Bud was away, even though I knew nothing.”

Gloria made a map of the local waterways, Shoal Creek, Center Creek and Spring River, for visitors renting canoes.

The Carthage Press has had countless articles and pictures over the years of Bud, Gloria and others' adventures with Bud's Bait. Bud was also featured in a 1989 Missouri Game & Stream magazine.

The year 1993

The flood of 1993 brought close to five feet of water in Bud's Bait. Gloria said the number of people to tried to help was overwhelming.

“God opened the heavens and sent all these angels to come help us,” Gloria said. “We lost a lot of pictures.”

Bud collected all he could of his store and put the supplies in canoes, and shut the door. Two years after the flood, Melissa made a scrapbook for her father with everything she could find regarding the shop. From the very early years to the present, complete with letters about the shop from everyone in the family – including Bud's older sister, and little granddaughter Shelby.

A sudden good bye

Bud was 60 when Gloria found him in his chair one morning in the year 2000.

“He was the love of my life – still is,” she said in tears. “I didn't know what to do so I just ran the shop. I knew nothing. I couldn't sell boats or motors. So I just listened to the customers.”

With the help of her son-in-law, David, Gloria expanded the bait shop and continued the canoe rental business.

Last year, Gloria started losing her sight and David and Melissa started taking on responsibilities of the shop.

“We're working for her,” Melissa said. “We have one calling, three businesses … I am really proud of her and how she's continued after Dad passed away. Most people would give up. She and Dad set such a great example to not only us, but to our kids … You have to fight for the good things in life.”

“You have to put Jesus Christ as the head of the business,” Gloria added.

Even though Bud is gone, his loving spirit lives on through his family and the 50-year-old business.

“He loved his girls and me,” Gloria siad. “It'll always be Bud's Bait.”