Many savvy bussinesspeople in Branson, that magical, mini-Tinseltown, have jumped on the nostalgia-bandwagon to make their living.
A former TV exec who once called Hollywood and New York home, Kellogg-Joslyn now runs Branson's Titanic Museum Attraction, which has attracted more than five million people since it opened five years ago. Inspired by her husband John's 1987 expedition to the site of the sinking (which was exactly 100 years ago) it features over $4.5 million worth of artifacts, a $1 million replica of the Grand Staircase and the opportunity to shovel coal in the boiler room.
How did a big-city exec like you end up in Branson?
"One of the shows I oversaw was Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. Two or three years into production, I got a letter from the Branson marketing department inviting us to do the show here, so we shot four episodes. John and I loved the area and began to travel here every July Fourth."
From TV to Titanic, how did that happen?
"My husband was the second person to put an expedition together and go to the Titanic. He wanted to build a permanent museum, and as he began to research, he decided we should build it in Branson. We waited 10 years for the location we wanted, and it took us two years to research what happened to all of the passengers."
What's been the biggest surprise for you about Branson since you moved here seven years ago?
"Coming from LA and New York — how nice people are. We have visitors come in, and they cannot believe how warm and friendly and gracious Branson is. Also, how beautiful the lakes are. Most people think of the shows, but we also have 720 miles of shoreline."
As the second-generation shopkeeper of Dick's Oldtime 5 & 10, established in 1961 and one the nation's oldest dime stores, Hartley is a fixture in Historic Downtown Branson. He prides himself on his ability to scour trade shows for one-of-a-kind toys and candy items, some of which are still priced at a sweet 10 cents.
You run one of the few family-run dime stores left in the nation. How do you compete against big box shops?
"We've created a little niche here. The building we're in is 90 years old — we still have the dime store counters that were used years ago; it still smells like a dime store; and it's just a different atmosphere. We have 180,000 items on our countertops."
What are some of the bests-sellers?
"Blue Waltz perfume is a fragrance women used 50 years ago. We still sell a lot of it. Many nostalgic toys — tops, marbles, balls and jacks — are huge sellers for us. We also have lots of candy you won't find anywhere else."
What are some of your favorite places in the 'hood?
"We've got four or five great little diners that offer real, home cooking. The Branson Café has been there a little over 100 years. The Shack has been there 40 or 50. There's also Clocker's and the Farm House. The owners are back there cooking the meals every day, and they'll always have a great plate lunch, like meatloaf, mashed potatoes and cherry pie."
Mayor Raeanne Presley
Before starting her first term as Branson's mayor in 2007, Presley ran the business side of Presley's Country Jubilee, a legendary show that her family has been putting on since 1967. The Presley clan is one of Branson's most famous performing families and is credited with building Branson's first music theater on the Strip.
You are one of the best known people in Branson, but you don't you consider yourself a native, do you?
"No, I moved here when my parents retired in '68. I was 10-years-old, so I'm not a native. You have to be here three generations to be considered a native, but I've gotten to see a lot of interesting changes. It's an anomaly now to find people who've been here all their lives."
You married into the famous Presley family. Your three children are adults now, but what was it like for them growing up in the entertainment business?
"Our kids were pretty used to staying up late, getting up early for school and then sleeping on the weekends. At one time, our show had a character called 'Biscuit the Dog,' and our son Nick played that. When he applied to college, his college essay was 'My Life as a Dog,' and he was admitted into Stanford."
When you're not tending to government affairs or the family business, where is your favorite place to just hang out?
"We really love Lake Taneycomo. You can kayak down Taneycomo, it's a cold-water lake. Even during hot summer months, the water's still a constant 50 degrees."