Shopping, painting and an abundance of entertainment
on a weekend getaway in Clay County, Missouri.
By Chelsea Hall
As the owner of a small home decor shop, I'm always on the hunt for inventory and inspiration. My 15-year-old daughter, Oakley, often joins me on my weekend trips, which makes for excellent bonding time.
I learned about Clay County, Missouri through a business acquaintance who raved about a couple of the boutique shops. I did some research online, and it seemed like exactly the place I needed to investigate in-person. When I told Oakley about a farmers' market and a painting class, she was sold.
We were staying at the renowned Stone-Yancey House Bed and Breakfast in Liberty. A historic landmark, it was built in 1874 in the Victorian style true to its time. Painted porch posts with filigree details upheld the red-tiled awning. Oakley pointed out the ornate widow's walk on top of the matching red-tiled roof.
“It reminds me of a house from ‘Downton Abbey,’” Oakley said quietly when we walked inside. With patterned wallpaper, delicate floral details and a classic feel, I could see why.
“Close to the same era,” I said, feeling probably the same time travel as Oakley did.
We were up and out early Saturday morning, as is our custom, but not before having a delicious breakfast served on delicate china by exceptionally friendly staff.
On the two-minute drive to Liberty Square, I admired the character of the town. Tall deciduous trees showcasing the fullness of late spring shaded the sidewalks. Side-by-side storefronts lined the streets surrounding the square—reminiscent of San Francisco and Venice, but the abundance of brick gave me the feel of classic heart-of-America.
I parked in front of the courthouse, which is at the heart of Liberty Square, surrounded by a manicured lawn and cropped shrubs. We walked over to the bustling famers market. Dozens of vendors offered local produce—and at this market, local means within 75 miles. I loved that specificity!
We sampled some berries, and the combination of juicy and sweet had me hooked. I bought a carton of strawberries that we finished before we’d made it through the block. I hadn’t expected to find anything for my shop, but some craft jams absolutely made the cut as a checkout counter product.
Next, we headed into Hammerhand Coffee for a midmorning pick-me-up. Its exterior was a timeless red brick building; inside, bright white walls with teal accents added to the cool factor. I ordered a rosemary iced latte, and Oakley had a raspberry mocha, which we sipped on before setting out to work again.
By “work,” of course, I mean perusing shops at whim and leisure.
Walking the streets and going in and out of shops, it occurred to me why I loved the character of the area—storefronts with varying facades sometimes matched their neighbors, but mostly contrasted. Even so, it all seemed to fit. That’s exactly the way I decorate. I love putting extremely different pieces together in a way that makes them fit, by way of color, design, era or theme. And that’s precisely what I was able to accomplish around the square finding pieces for my clientele.
I found an old book and a map at a vintage boutique called Aggieal’s Attic, a bold print rug at American Whatever, and pieces of small furniture here and there. One of my most exciting finds, Oakley spotted; it was a pair of bronzed baby shoes that I planned on displaying in front of an antique makeup mirror I already have—I see a set up as a simple, elegant adornment in someone’s nursery. I found equal excitement in a square, Roman numeral, black and white clock at Petals & Potpourri. This one I’d keep for my own home office—avoiding “all work and no play.”
Amid the beautiful foliage and shops, we came across the site of the first daylight bank robbery in the US. Its place in history is attributed to the Jesse James Gang, and is now the Jesse James Bank Museum. Outside, the red brick building with green shutters looked like a friendly schoolhouse to me.
The inside felt homey with a fireplace on one end of the room, a stove on the other, and several inviting antique desks and chairs. In contrast to the high-security, bullet-proof glass in today’s banks, apathetic fencing on either side of the transaction counter stood to deter polite patrons from jumping behind it. Of course, one could jump between them, or go around the counter to rush the vault it protected.
Being museum guests, we had no need to jump or rush. The guide led us to peer inside the money room.
“It’s small!” Oakley said, looking in past the green doorframe at the matching green cabinet and gray cinderblock walls. Being smaller than an average walk-in closet, I had to agree.
We spent a bit of time back at the B&B resting and refueling before heading out for our painting class at Blanc Palette. The instructor led us in creating a night scene of a silver moon over a cascading waterfall. I struck up a conversation with the woman next to me, who told me she and her friends would be seeing a musical in the park after class. Oakley loved the idea, and I was on board; and just like that, we had a plan for the evening.
They also told us about the Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary, a 100-acre wildlife preserve with exhibits, events and four miles of trails. It wouldn’t fit into the itinerary this time, but I made a note for future reference.
I continued the class focusing intently on the given techniques. Oakley deviated from the instructions a bit — adding a touch of purple to a cloud here, an extra rock or leaf there, oh, and putting the moon under the waterfall. It was a blast! In the end, she and I had a very cool pair.
“Want to sell them in the shop?” I suggested. “Not for sale!” Oakley answered with a grin, admiring her work.
We drove over to Oak Grove Park in the city of Gladstone for Gladstone Theatre in the Park, getting there just as the show started. We spread out our picnic blanket amid families, couples and groups of friends. The outdoor, gray amphitheater topped with a blue gabled roofline was transformed to fit the show. As much as I enjoyed the performance, for me, it was all about the venue and the atmosphere. It was casual and comfortable, and I was glad to have yet another fun shared experience with Oakley.
When we were getting ready for bed, I thought about the gals we met painting, and how they’d be exploring a fascinating ecosystem the following morning. I liked the idea, so I looked up dates we could return, and events we could try to coordinate with to make the most of our time. I came across Liberty Arts Squared Festival. I instantly pictured the square buzzing with creative energy: artists talking about their work, shoppers falling in love with various pieces, Oakley and me scoping out the right wares for our store…. I couldn’t wait!