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home : business : business June 28, 2016

8/17/2013 8:40:00 AM
Entrepreneur finds a home in Sisters
Nick and Melodie Morrone, with Glenda Smith, offer cotton leisure wear at Drawstrings of Malibu. photo by Jim Cornelius
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Nick and Melodie Morrone, with Glenda Smith, offer cotton leisure wear at Drawstrings of Malibu. photo by Jim Cornelius

By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

It's a long and winding road that brought Nick Morrone to Sisters, where he has established a new headquarters for his 35-year-old business, Drawstrings of Malibu. It's a road marked with tragedy and determination, creativity and a fundamental love for people.

The road started in Chicago where, as a child, Morrone discovered two things that would be guideposts through his life: Music, and hard work. Nick's father was a shoemaker from Italy, and when Nick was just 5 years old, he put him to work shining shoes in front of his shop. The little shoe-shine boy attracted folks to his father's shop, and Nick understood something: "This is business."

His mom's side of the family featured several musicians who played in the big bands of the era.

"I just fell in love with the beat, so I became a drummer," Nick recalls.

At age 8 he was a novelty act called Little BeBop.

As a kid in 1958, he connected with another Chicago musician - Terry Kath, who would become a masterful guitarist and a founding member of the band Chicago. Nick was having dime dances in his parents' home when one day Terry showed up at the door with a guitar and asked to play with Nick, but Terry only knew two chords. Nick took him in and they became a Band of Two playing dime dances, then moving on to the dance halls along with other band members.

That childhood music connection would prove fateful.

Nick married Melodie in 1963 and Terry went on a Dick Clark Tour with The Missing Links, as well as the Big Thing. Later he would start the Chicago Transit Authority, which became the band Chicago.

In 1976 Nick and Terry reconnected at a concert. Nick recalls: "Terry said, "I don't know where you have been, but I am not going to lose you again, I want you on my solo projects.'"

Nick went on the road for a week to talk about their future projects. In 1978 Nick and Melodie were living in Michigan, they sold all their possessions and traveled to California to record.

Fate intervened. Kath had a fatal gun accident the day before Nick was to arrive. Nick and Melodie were left homeless in Malibu with two children, a cat and living in their van.

"I didn't know what to do," Morrone said. "I was devastated. I felt so bad for him."

Despite the tragedy, Nick and Melodie fell in love with California and decided to move there.

He needed to make a living. Renting space on the pier at Malibu in front of Alice's Restaurant, with $40 as start-up capital, he made a dress with a buddy and sold it. What would become Drawstrings of Malibu was born.

"That's how we started the company - with one dress," he recalled.

Drawstrings of Malibu makes comfortable and stylish leisure and travel clothing out of 100 percent preshrunk cotton, with the raw materials sourced in the USA and the clothing made by Americans.

"I turned out to be a cutter and a dyer," Morrone noted with a smile. "The lady that bought that first dress - she shopped for us for 20 years."

Over the decades, Morrone built the business, much of it through vending at shows across the country. One of the couples he had on the road came through Sisters, liked it, and told Morrone they wanted to get off the road for a summer. They rented a space in Sisters and sold their clothing.

This spring, Nick and Melodie, who has been diagnosed with lung cancer, decided they liked Sisters themselves, and they moved here, taking living quarters upstairs at The Palace and operating their shop - and business headquarters - in the space on the corner, including a deck that fronts Cascade Avenue.

If that seems like an old-school urban live-work arrangement, that fact is not lost on Morrone. For him, his little corner of E. Cascade Avenue and S. Elm Street is like the old neighborhood in Chicago. He engages with the folks in his neighborhood just like he did when he was a little shoeshine boy. And it's not just about his own business.

"I'm on that deck every day telling people what restaurant to go to and where to go," he said. "Keeping my neighborhood rockin'."

The Morrones also have a place in Mesa, Arizona, and they may spend some time there this winter, depending on Melodie's condition. But they think of Sisters as home.

"We fell in love with Sisters," Nick said. "We're here; we're off the road."

In addition to operating his business and "keeping his neighborhood rockin'," Nick continues to pursue his passion for music, including honoring his old friend Terry Kath. For more information on Nick's music, visit For more information on Drawstrings of Malibu, visit or stop in and visit.

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