"Right now Morpeth is 11 kilometres from Maitland, but before long they'll say Maitland is 11 kilometres from Morpeth."
That was businesssman Trevor Richards' mantra when he moved to Morpeth in 1986 and took over the derelict Campbells Store.
Fast forward 33 years and it's debatable whether Richards has achieved his goal, but there's no doubt the historic village is thriving - a far cry from the sleepy streets back then.
It has been this desire to lift the profile of his adopted home that saw Mr Richards awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to the tourism industry in Morpeth.
"I'm surprised, humbled really. I don't know who nominated me, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't anyone from council," he says, bursting into a laugh over their well publicised clashes.
So how far has Morpeth come?
"I remember taking a picture when we had 11 cars out front of our store," he said. "I was thrilled at that because the street was pretty deserted. There wasn't much here back then ... a few stores."
But Richards found like-minded people in John Rademaker, Dallas Blake and the Commercial Hotel publican Don Burrows who wanted to shake things up.
"We formed a group and we'd go off trying to promote Morpeth," Richards said.
"We decided we needed coaches of tourists here so we'd go to bus and coach shows - Sydney, Warwick Farm, wherever - and we had a banner made up 'where the hell is Morpeth?'. Everyone thought we were crackers, but it got people talking.
"We'd talk to the coach captains and got things moving. We figured if people came then businesses would soon open. Before long we had quality clothes shops, antique centres, good restaurants and cafes and so on popping up.
"To make sure people kept coming we'd try to organise regular events - things like The Weird and Wonderful Novelty Teapot Festival was launched, along with the Morpeth Gourd Festival, and the Morpeth Honey Festival.
Richards' own store branched away from craft and into artwork.
"I started the gallery in 1991 and in the first week I made a total of $4.50 - from a few postcards. I'd sell paintings for $50, $100, maybe $150 and was stumbling along, then one day I got a Bill Freeman painting with a $500 price tag. I thought it would never sell, but it did.
"So I got another and it sold ... and then another, and people would come up and say it's nice to get some good artwork to buy. That was the start of it."
These days the gallery is home to Australia's very finest with hold-your-breath price tags.
Richards - and Morpeth - have come a long way.