When James Merrill's Scoop-n-Scoot Ice Cream, Deli & More opened in February, The Kansas City Star put it on the front page, and the TV stations showed up soon afterward. Then came the cards and letters thanking him for opening a little ice cream store and also selling deli sandwiches, pizzas and hot dogs in a neighborhood long abandoned by most businesses. Merrill already had a small home-building business when he decided to fill a vacant lot near 39th Street and Indiana, adding a tiny strip mall to an intersection with a Church's Chicken and a Thriftway Cleaners that had managed to hold on there since 1973. Four banks turned Merrill down before one from Kansas lent him the money; today, three of the five spaces in the strip mall are occupied. Meanwhile, a new Family Dollar store went up across the street. Next door to Merrill's brightly colored Scoop-n-Scoot is a barbershop called JoeyCuts, where owner Joey Thomas and other stylists gave at least 75 free haircuts to kids going back to school in August. Merrill's No. 1 lesson for other developers is simple but rare: It's not always about getting rich — it's about fulfilling a need. After all, everyone should be able to get an ice cream cone close to home.