T-shirt designer reviving historic Madera County 'Bandit Town'

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Folks used to come from miles around to Old Town, just outside of North Fork, a replica Wild West town with shops and a big saloon. It went belly up 20 years ago. (KFSN)

Folks used to come from miles around to Old Town, just outside of North Fork, a replica Wild West town with shops and a big saloon. It went belly up 20 years ago.

Jen McMillan discovered this place a couple years back. While travelling through North Fork, she saw the four-acre place in a real estate magazine and told us she was hooked.

"It said 'own your own western town,' 'largest dance floor in the county,' and that was it," said McMillan.

McMillan's a clothing designer. She started out working for legendary biker Jesse James. Now she owns the "Bandit" brand. A line of T-shirts popular with the country-rock-outlaw-biker crowd. That's helping to finance her plans for all the old west style buildings that make up "Bandit Town."

"I want to turn them all into guest rooms and make kind of a country rock and roll bed and breakfast deal, and then you can bring your horse too. Kind of a country rock and roll horse, bed and breakfast," said McMillan.

She's already held events here, weddings and concerts and the town was the setting for a music video her boyfriend, musician Whitey Morgan shot. That video is featured on the Rolling Stone Magazine website.

But McMillan's doing more than just fixing up this old western town. Her T-shirt company is bringing new life to the nearby real town of North Fork.

In January, she moved part of her clothing business from L.A. to North Fork, buying some long vacant downtown property and putting people to work. The T-shirts are sold online, in boutiques and some major retailers including Urban Outfitters

Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler says she's given the place a real shot in the arm.

"She's brought some great economy for North Fork but also for Madera County, and it also brings jobs," said Wheeler.

Bandit Brands and Bandit Town are helping put this town, crippled by the demise of the timber industry and long known as the "Geographic Center of California," back on the map. It's all thanks to a woman motivated to do her own thing and being herself.

"I think it just happened on accident and motivated me to not have to go to work for somebody else. I think that was my motivation," McMillan told Action News. And then added, "No one would hire me with all these tattoos anyway."

McMillan hopes to make Bandit Town a holiday weekend destination, with events on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

Related Topics:
businessMadera CountyNorth Fork
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