HAMLET — Big changes are in progress at the Hamlet Depot and Museums, and museum director Stephanie Thornsbury hopes people will come in and tour the updated gift shop — now located in the main entrance.
Thornsbury said she believes people who might otherwise stop into the museum don’t realize it is open during the week, so she’s made some improvements along the sidewalk.
“I got sandwich boards to put places, and I put a chalk board over there that says, ‘Hey, don’t forget to check out the model train downstairs!” she said. “Because there’s nothing that leads people into there. Stuff like this is what you need. You need more advertising to get people’s attention.”
Thornsbury also has a finger on the pulse of current events.
“I set up a sidewalk board yesterday that says, ‘Don’t forget to visit the museum while you’re getting Poké Balls,’” she said.
Along with moving the gift shop and capitalizing on fresh ways to attract visitors, Thornsbury has added more relevant items to the shop’s inventory, including some made by residents of Richmond County.
“My idea was that we needed more stuff that you can’t get other places locally, and we also want things from local people, so that what we have here you can’t go into Walmart and buy,” she said. “I wanted to make it a little different, more appealing and more interesting.
“We’ve just started carrying board games that are either history-themed or train-themed, and those aren’t available within a 30-45 mile radius. We’ve also got some local people that are selling stuff. We’ve got some bracelets and shirts that are made by local people.”
Thornsbury explained that including more items made locally will give the gift shop a more distinctive feel while strengthening business for the area.
“If you want your community to be behind you, you have to be behind them,” she said. “And so I’m hoping that will bring more people in to sell and more people in to buy things. And all of the proceeds go to bring money back to the museum to fund more events and more programs.”
The gift shop used to be situated in the back of the depot next to the Amtrak pick-up station. There, it was too far from the main office and not readily visible. Thornsbury said some people were unaware there even was a gift shop due to its location. But moving the brick and mortar store is not all she’s got planned.
“We’re going to open an Amazon store in the next couple of weeks, because a lot of the people on our Facebook page who are interested in the museum aren’t directly here,” she said. “So they’ll still able to support us from far away.”
Another pet project of the new museum director is hosting a game night at the depot.
“We’re still working on it, and we’ve got to decide when and where we’ll have it,” she said. “But I’m thinking of doing Ticket to Ride. The prize could be the game.”
According to the website for Days of Wonder —the company that publishes the game — “Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure where players collect cards of various types of train cars that enable them to claim railway routes connecting cities in various countries around the world.”
Other games stocked in the gift shop are Timeline, Colt Express and Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. There are also crayon puzzles, T-shirts and travel games to keep kids busy during long car rides.
Thornsbury is also looking ahead to the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year.
“I’ve got a letter written up that I’ll send to the schools,” she said. “Discovery Place does new teacher packets. Every Saturday, they let new teachers come in for free and they get a packet. I just sent some of our brochures for them to put in the packet. I had a lot of day camps and day cares come in during this last month, too.”
She said she is still amazed at the number of people who don’t realize the depot museum is there.
“Regionally, people don’t know,” she explained. “I worked at Badcock (Home Furniture and More) in Cheraw for 10 years. My mom still lives there, and she asked David Linton who does the (Chesterfield County) Shopper to put an article in about the depot. The week we put it in the paper, we had three visitors from Cheraw who never knew it was here.”
Thornsbury is actively seeking more items made locally to include in the gift shop, and said anyone who is interested can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org and she will email an application back to them.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.