HAMILTON, Mo. - They come from Oklahoma, Kansas and far-flung locales beyond. One visitor traveled here all the way from Israel, just to meet the woman who has become a YouTube sensation for the hobby she has turned into a multi-million dollar family business.
That woman is Jenny Doan, matriarch of the Doan family, who launched the Missouri Star Quilting company in 2008 with a quilting machine, and a tumbledown brick building in Hamilton's one-stoplight downtown.
"It's bizarre," says Doan of her YouTube fame. Doan teaches quilting classes in short web videos, and in person, for those who trek to her store to shop, and to meet the woman one described as the "Oprah" of quilting.
"I just have this crawly feeling like I need to get to buying some," customer Suzi Page said, surrounded by reams of colorful fabrics.
Page traveled here Wednesday from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma; leaving her home at five am to arrive shortly after the main store opened.
The devotion of customers like Page, who place the majority of their orders online, has fueled the growth of the company, says founder Al Doan, the fifth of Jenny's seven children.
"That first year, it was our family that worked the shop, eight to five, every single day," Al Doan said. "No one took a paycheck, for the first year."
As the online and physical shops grew more successful, the Doan's expanded – hiring more workers and snapping up a larger showroom last year, which they now say is almost too small. The family claims they are the largest shipper of pre-cut quilting fabrics anywhere in the world, and the largest private employer here in rural Caldwell county.
And they're still growing.
The Doans recently purchased two buildings adjacent to their shop, knocking down the wall between them. This fall, that building is set to reopen as a "Sleep-and-Sew" retreat center for the tourists who flock to the shop, offering sleeping accommodations and a communal kitchen. A restaurant is planned at another building the Doans have purchased, opening in the first quarter of 2014.
"What we're trying to do is sort of be the Disneyland for quilting," Doan said. "Bring them to town, give them a place to stay, some food to eat and you know some things to do where every time they come they have a great experience and love what they see here."