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Saturday, September 24, 2016

I learned how one family can change a town in Hamilton, MO

The cool morning air turned hot and muggy by the time we drove into Hamilton, Missouri. My friend Cathy had invited me to learn about the single business venture that has revitalized the town.

Several murals caught my eye and as soon as we parked, I stopped to take pictures. I looked around and at least four other people were doing the same. We found a table in a little dining courtyard and waited for Cathy to arrive.

I expected to find several stores filled with quilting merchandise, but I had never really thought about what that would be. If asked, I would have said, sewing machines, some fabric and the stuff you put inside the quilt. (Obviously, I am not a quilter).

Wow, was I in for a surprise! We found a booming main street (Davis Street) filled with parked cars and folks walking from store to store.

When Cathy arrived, I admitted the town impressed me. Her response, “You haven’t seen anything yet.” Again, she was right. We met people from Wisconsin, Arizona and Washington, all visiting this little town for the same shopping experience.

Together with two other friends, Evelyn and Sharon, we visited seven of the fourteen Missouri Star Quilt Company stores. That tells the story.

The Doan family – with seven children – moved from California to Hamilton, Missouri, about 20 years ago. Mr. Hamilton commuted about an hour-and-a-half every day to his job as a mechanic at the Kansas City Star. In 2008, the market crash took most of his retirement savings and the siblings decided to help.
Pre-packaged fabric

They bought a little store in Hamilton and opened a quilting service shop. Jenny, the mother, became the face of the company. Marketing the business online they soon became the largest You-Tube quilting channel. Eight years later, the company ships thousands of orders of pre-packaged quilt fabric around the globe. Missouri Star is truly a success story, based on hard work and creativity.

In each shop I visited, I marveled at the merchandising genius. We were not just looking at fabric. We saw themed stores, with product beautifully displayed. Quilts everywhere gave shoppers ideas. You could watch a quilter’s eyes light up as a new idea struck. In each store, personnel busily cut and measured fabric, answered questions and visited with customers.

I brought away two important lessons. Small towns can be revitalized if people care and small businesses can succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

My visit to Hamilton – aside from spending an enjoyable day with friends – brought pride to my heart. I love seeing people succeed by helping other people. That’s exactly what Missouri Star Quilt Company does for its customers.

Hamilton, Missouri is certainly worth a visit. We had lunch at the Blue Sage Restaurant. I ordered the Tuesday special, Chicken Alfredo and it was delicious. I needed all the walking up and down Davis Street to work off those calories. My hubby grabbed a cheeseburger at J’s Burger Dive so he could sit outside with Luke, our Bichon.  He enjoyed it and didn’t even have to share it with Luke.

“I’ve been watching people carry out huge ice cream cones,” he said with a not-very-subtle grin.

We finished our shopping and all agreed an ice cream cone would be a great way to end the day. Thinking we’d recently eaten, we decided to order single dip cones. The huge servings amazed us. Take it from me – if you’re ever in Hamilton, stop for an ice cream cone at J’s Burger Dive!

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