Along a mud road that later became 40 Highway, a family produce stand developed into a dining experience that lasted over 60 years.
In 1870, the grandparents of restaurateurs Lloyd and Leslie (Les) Stephenson began selling produce from their farm to travelers. By 1890, their grandfather had planted apple trees to add to their offerings. The orchard had grown to several hundred acres in various locations in Jackson County when Norman, brother of Les and Lloyd, took over operations in 1935.
No longer used as a produce stand, the twin brothers opened a small 10-booth luncheonette at the corner of the highway and Lee’s Summit Road in 1946. The space was expanded over the years until Stephenson’s Apple Farm Restaurant consisted of eight dining rooms and a patio.
While supplying the apples and other fruits used at the restaurant for their famous cider, apple fritters, apple butter, apple dumplings and apple pie, the orchard also operated as a separate business, especially for those who wanted the experience of picking their own fruit.
In addition to popular homestyle favorites, the restaurant menu also included seafood and steak, and a wide variety of wines and cocktails, including “Mrs. Truman’s Famous Fruit Punch.”
A cider barrel in the restaurant’s lobby offered up samples of cider, or customers could order a glass with their dinner or desert. Jugs of cider could be purchased to take home at both the restaurant and orchard.
As the brothers aged, other family members tried to keep the restaurant going but it closed suddenly in 2007. The orchard still operated separately, but with the demolition of the restaurant for a new QuikTrip and other businesses encroaching, the orchard land was sold too.
The cardboard basket shown lists the orchard’s address as “On 40 Hwy – 3 miles E. of Blue Ridge Blvd., K.C. MO 64136.” It will hold 5 to 6 lbs of apples, which measure as a peck.