Branson, Mo. — Barber Jim Stevenson wanted to show people the big picture of Branson. In miniature.
So he built an 8-foot-by-16-foot model of his adopted hometown. Intricately crafted using aerial photos, it depicts each home in every subdivision, every theater, motel, business and shopping mall all carved from balsa wood. It also includes the area's lakes and forests of tiny trees, all at the scale of 200 feet per inch.
When he wasn't trimming hair at Whiskers Barber Shop on Fall Creek Road, he worked on the model. For two years. In his living room.
"My wife was pretty glad to get her living room back," he said as he showed off his hand-painted masterpiece.
His wife, Peggy, contributed more than her living room. For two years, she chipped in her salary as manager of a Subway sandwich shop, he said.
"I think it's great," Peggy Stevenson said. "I'm into crafts, too, so when he started working on it outside, it was too hot, so I said, 'Why don't you just bring it in the living room?' I had no idea how big it was going to get."
The model cost thousands of dollars to build. Its streets are outlined with blinking lights 1,000 lights at 85 cents each, Stevenson said. He said he hopes to recoup that expense, plus earn his retirement nest egg, via advertising. He is taking the show on the road.
The Stevensons have booked five large trade shows, nine state fairs and appearances at shopping malls from Oshkosh, Wis., to Albuquerque, N.M., over the next year.
Stevenson said he's inviting Branson and Springfield businesses to buy advertising space in the model's display tent and in accompanying videos that will be shown inside the tent. He's had good response so far.
Stevenson also hopes to help market the town where he settled six years ago after suffering two heart attacks. The couple owned a restaurant and convenience store in the Pittsburgh area, but after moving to Branson, he went back to cutting hair, his former career.
It's a good gimmick, said Branson resident Jerry Peckham, who saw the model recently on display at the Grand Country Mall.
"If that's in a mall, you've got to stop and look," Peckham said. "You can't help it."