Two years ago, St. Joseph lost its historic Cool Crest miniature golf course.
But in an almost unbelievable twist, thanks to new owners Rick Gilmore and the people at Joe Town Enterprises, it returns this weekend.
Big comebacks for beloved entertainment venues in St. Joseph don’t normally happen. Ask anyone who remembers the historic stores and venues in Downtown St. Joseph that fell victim to urban renewal, neglect and fires.
A jewel of the city for decades for its vintage, old-timey aesthetic, Cool Crest’s future seemed bleak when it was announced in 2019 that it was going up for sale. It wasn’t unexpected, as the business already had been closed for a year, but it was assumed that like so many things this city loved from the past, it likely would be bulldozed and turned into a restaurant.
Thankfully, it looks like Cool Crest is in the right hands, as Joe Town Enterprises has proven to be a reputable heir to the historic course, started by the late Jan and Guy Saxton in 1948. The owners also run Joe Town Mini Golf and Joe Town Speedway on the north side of the city and have been killing it.
Last summer, while I was waiting for my car to be repaired, I ventured down to the then-abandoned Cool Crest course to see what was left. It was covered in dirt, leaves and litter — a sad end to the place that delighted so many, including my out-of-town friends who’d go at my insistence, and the Saxtons’ legacy.
Watching the Joe Town crew bring the historic hazards of the course, like the golfing boy, dragon and rocket, back to life with a full refurbishment, I feel hopeful, not only for the course but for the city.
Too often in St. Joseph, less-established business owners come in, buy a business, promise the stars and moon, don’t stick it out and leave another vacant spot in the city’s landscape. Owners like Joe Town with Cool Crest and the Montees with the Trail Theater, who both explicitly state they want to honor the history and move into the future, give me hope that that previous trend has changed and St. Joseph can reap the benefits.
In 2002, Guy and Jan Saxton told the St. Joseph News-Press about Cool Crest: “We feel that people are searching for a place of entertainment that is wholesome — free of foul language — to have fun in the out-of-doors.”
For fun-seekers in St. Joseph, it’s a huge win that those good times are back again.