Friends, Photos and Peace and Quiet
Successful business couple relocate to Kansas to enjoy rural pleasures
I first met Phil and Rochelle Hamilton upon their move to Kansas three years ago. It was obvious they were not local. Her striking fashion and singularly refined style stood in start contrast to his more conservative dress. Yet after meeting the couple it was clear this was not a case of opposites attract, but a stronger sense that they simply compliment one another as a whole. “Best friends” as they later refer to one another.
The Hamiltons own and operate a photography studio and boutique in Marquette. Both had been born and raised in Iowa, yet not to meet until by chance in The Art Institute, Kansas City. Rochelle had wanted to become a fashion designer. Her first job after college was window designing in department stores in Kansas City. She also taught art and dabbled in real estate for a while.
Phil in the mean time had become an architect and had his first introduction to photography in this profession. Soon after marriage, they came across a successful photography business for sale. The owner taught them all she knew, especially her talent for classic portraits.
After 35 years in the business in Kansas City, with its life of prosperity and glamor, the Hamiltons urged for a change. They had photographed community celebrities such as the Royals baseball team, Chiefs football NFL team, Kauffman family and other famous locals.
But now their children had grown and the hustle of city life was losing its appeal. The stress of the business, hectic traffic and chaos had taken its toll. Their home in the ritzy Kansas City Plaza was a far cry from the “Free Land” offer in Marquette. But they just knew the change in address was right.
After their initial visit, they happened upon a downtown business opportunity and the plans changed slightly from acquiring the free land to a fresh start in their professions. With the purchase ofthe former Olson’s furniture store and funeral home, the fun commenced.
They both had dreams to fulfill. Rochelle had imagined owning a boutique. Here she could display some of her own jewelry designs and express her non-conformist styles. Meanwhile, Phil launched a two year project to convert the original funeral home upstairs to a contemporary loft. The endeavor was a little more than he had bargained for given the ancient construction. Floors had to be raised to allow for new water lines. Electrical lines updated to something akin to modern. Phil spent days removing plaster and exposing the old brick.
What was created is stunning. Original structures remain the old safe vault, the elevator and fire door. A fantastic merge of past and present, class and oddity.
The couple love their new life in rural Kansas. They are actively involved civically. Phil is on the senior center board and is now a quite accomplished pool player. Rochelle is a former Motorcycle museum board member, present Chamber president and school site council member.
Their experiences from city life have brought fun new ideas to small town Kansas. in Kansas City, they were involved with Kemper Art: Rochelle even gave tours. Documentary studies were a hobby. They continued their desire to serve in their new community. “We live life to grow and help one another.”
“People here are so genuine” Phil remarks. “I don’t miss the rudeness.” However, he does sometimes, only sometimes, miss the excitement.
“Whenever we miss the stimulation, art galleries, fine dining, friends and family, we just travel back for a few days for our “city fix”, Rochelle explains. “We get the best of both worlds.” Rochelle adds.
Life is so good that Rochelle believes they will never retire. “You have to love what you do, and when you do, why ever stop?” she exclaims.