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But this hot rod was designed to be an outlaw. White lettering across the back bumper reads: "Run and Shine." Under the black canopy that shades him as he drives, Wehner has lined up six brown ceramic jugs plugged with cork stoppers — his homage to the bootleggers who hauled moonshine during Prohibition.
He would never outrun the cops in this slow-moving buggy.
"But I joke that I'm going to race the Amish and kick their butt," he says with a laugh.
Catch Neal Clevenger if you can.
Look here first: the Raytown Equestrian Center, a sprawling white barn surrounded by green pastures and hemmed in by a white picket fence that keeps horses from clomping into the parking lot of the medical building next door. On the walls of the center's office, next to framed photos of award-winning horses and trainers dating back to the 1940s, there are notes from Clevenger.
"This phone is for barn personal use only! No personal call's aloud!"
No? Try here: Raytown Car Wash, a vintage outfit with a wrought-iron sign and aging speakers that pipe out tinny versions of "Stand By Me" and "Dream Lover." The office is locked, but Clevenger's handwriting is scrawled on a note that promises, "Be Back Soon."
Late mornings, Clevenger is on duty in the back room of a squat stone building, as the manager of the Raytown Water Company.
His ambition was apparent as soon as he returned from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1962 with a degree in a business management. His first enterprise was the car wash. Times were different back then. He bought the ground with a handshake. "I didn't have a lease," he says.
He was still a car-wash proprietor when he fell in love with a Japanese karate expert. Mitsue Inaba was on a U.S. tour in the early 1970s when Clevenger's mom, a martial-arts fan, met Ibana at a Raytown exhibition and then introduced the young athlete to her son. They corresponded for three years before Inaba moved to the small Missouri town to marry the aspiring entrepreneur.
Their empire grew quickly.
"After the car wash, people got to know us," Clevenger explains. "As the old-timers retired, they'd ask, 'Would you buy my building?'"
The Raytown Clinic's current location was the site of the city's first doctor's office. Across the street from the water company was Raytown's first big grocery store. Raytown's first two-story
building — now a shoe store —
was a few doors down.
Clevenger owns them all.
"I've got a lot of firsts," he says with a weary smile.
Clevenger bought the equestrian center in 1992. The land had been owned by cigar magnate Miles Moser, who ran a profitable racetrack. The local fame lingered as the track became a horse stable and boarding facility; the manager, Sug Utz, had a reputation as one of the best breeders in the nation. He died last year, Clevenger says.
But that property holds little sentimental value for Clevenger. He grew up on a farm, rode in the local saddle club and trotted in Raytown parades, but unlike the family car wash, the barn is just an investment, something to hold on to until the right developer comes along. Clevenger already has more work than a normal business day can hold.
"They call me a workaholic," he says. "I should be in AA, but I'm legal."
Even Clevenger's wife has a hard time catching him — he's home for dinner but gone again for a second round of work as soon as he clears his plate. Then he'll usually slip into bed after two or three in the morning.