PAOLA — Don Hadlock’s cabinetry business could have ended on a cold December day in 1983.
Don was sitting in church on that day when his pager beeped at him. As a volunteer firefighter, he was used to getting a page whenever a fire call came in.
But he wasn’t used to looking at his pager and seeing that the fire was located at his shop.
Don rushed to his business on Peoria Street next to the Paola Free Library along with his fellow firefighters and worked to extinguish the flames. He received serious burns to his hands while fleeing the basement, and despite his efforts, the building and all of its contents were a complete loss.
Thanks to the support of the community, though, it didn’t take him long to get back on his feet. He relocated to his current location on Silver Street in January 1984, and his first six months of operation were rent free thanks to the generosity of Jim and Barbara Queen.
His customers also made sure Don’s shop stayed afloat. After the fire, he told them they may want to look elsewhere to get their projects complete because they would be delayed, but every single one of them said they would stay and wait for Don.
“I wouldn’t trade Paola for all the towns in the world,” Don said.
And it’s loyal customers like Lee and Barb Durham, who have bought more than 20 sets of cabinets from Don over the years, that have kept his business going for nearly 63 years.
Don began his cabinet business in June 1956, and during the Paola Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner March 4, he was honored for operating the longest single-owned continuously operating business in Paola.
Don accepted the award with his wife, Marsena, who he has been married to for 49 years.
Don would later say that the award is nice, but he doesn’t expect any recognition for his work. He just enjoys what he does, and even though he’s 87, he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“I just love it,” he said.