Hamilton, Mo.has long been known as the birthplace of J.C. Penney. In fact, you can still come here to see his home and museum, but take a stroll down these streets and you’ll see many stores with a familiar theme. In fact, many people call this the Disneyland of Quilting.
James Cash Penney was born in Hamilton in 1875. You can still see his boyhood home, farm and museum. Penney opened his 500th store right here with the stipulation it would remain open, regardless of its economic performance, until after his death. That location closed in the mid 1980s, and many storefronts here became vacant. But then a family happened to town quite by chance.
"My husband’s family was living in California and it became a really hard time, they have a large family, and it was not financially feasible for them to stay there, so they really just opened a map and picked a spot," said Misty Doan, of Missouri Star Quilt Company.
Doan's mother-in-law, Jenny Doan, enjoyed quilting and her family posted a video of her showing how to quilt. Her bubbly personality connected with viewers - lots and lots of them.
"We currently have almost 60,000 subscribers to our YouTube channel and the numbers of millions of view I don’t even know, it’s staggering," she said.
It was the beginning of the Missouri Star Quilt Company and an multitude of visitors to the town of Hamilton.
"We had people who wanted to come and visit us, which was kind of unexpected," she said. "And so Missouri Star, we had this vision of creating this Disneyland for quilters, and so we now have twelve stores here in town."
There are so many quilt stores, you could make your own quilt just of the stores themselves…different stores for different fabrics…places for people to enjoy an artform that remains very much alive.
With so many people visiting town, other businesses began to grow as well.
"We’re a population of 1800 and sometimes we can double that with the visitors that are here in town at one time," said Dakota Redford, Hamilton Mo. resident.
Restaurants, museums, stores and even a place called Man’s Land caters to the many visitors. And they now have the largest one of these in the world.
"The world’s largest spool of thread is 22 feet tall and eight feet wide and started when it was unveiled with a million yards of Aurifil thread and visitors have been adding to it ever since," said Redford.
That spool sits in front of the new Quilting Museum in town. It’s a place catering to a specific interest, yet holding a little something for everyone, and perhaps creating memories that last beyond lifetimes.
"The thing about quilting and quilting as a hobby is that it lasts longer than you do. When you’re spending your time working on it, first of all you never put that many hours into something out of anger or malice, it’s just a love filled art form," said Dean.
Traveling the countryside…from the Disneyland of Quilting, in Hamilton, MO…I’m Andrew McCrea.