This piece of heaven has always been a bookshop.
In 1973, Musabelle Naut opened Musabelle's Books here on the corner of Memorial and Dairy Ashford, back when the intersection was a four-way stop sign and ours was a budding little neighborhood. Musabelle served West Houston with devotion for 23 years.
I have always been a book lover. I would wake up early on Saturday mornings to sit by a door in the bedroom to read. More than once, my sister Kathleen tattled on me for having the light on after my bedtime. Mom took us to the West University library on a regular basis, and I made my way through every novel in the kids’ section.
Fast forward some years, and I continued to read voraciously. But I was on my own—I didn’t have anyone giving me recommendations. In 1995, my husband Greg and I returned from a stint in Bakersfield to my beloved Houston. I knew I wanted to live in Spring Branch for the great schools, as our sons Will and Steven were in grade school at the time. But Dairy Ashford was my absolute westernmost boundary. So, of course, we found the perfect house two blocks east of Dairy Ashford. I remember noticing the little bookstore on the corner.
Fast forward again, and I was searching for something to do while Steven was in afternoon kindergarten. So I approached Musabelle about working (for free!) at her shop. As I helped in the store, I felt at home—surrounded by books and the opportunity to talk to people about what they were enjoying.
When Musabelle decided to retire in October 1996, Greg and I bought the shop. We renamed it Blue Willow Bookshop. While there is a wonderful Newbery Award-winning novel called Blue Willow, the store is actually named after the china pattern. I wanted a comfortable feel, and who doesn't remember gathering around the table as Grandmother served your favorites on the family dishes?
What an undertaking taking over the store was. Thank goodness I grew up in retail. My parents owned Barnes Minimax, a small grocery store in Westbury. The entire family worked seven days a week to make it a success. My parents taught me how to be gracious with each and every customer. Fortunately for me, my father was able to help me in the bookshop for a number of years—always passing on good advice, and even giving me my moniker, Girlboss.
Our team has grown over the years, with many moving on but still beloved in our hearts. Even so, a core family remains—without them, the store wouldn’t be what it is today.
Alice and I met at the first Cub Scout meeting at the Meadow Wood Elementary cafeteria. She is my right (and left) arm. In a moment of serendipity, I met Cathy in the same cafeteria at a Christopher Paul Curtis signing. How was I to know that she would be the catalyst for bringing so many wonderful authors to our store?
Our team works so hard, and we have so much fun together. You know them—they fill your orders, share your lives, and are a shoulder to cry on. And you can always count on them for a wonderful book recommendation. I think that's what makes us Houston's favorite bookshop: We truly want to share our love of books with you, whether you live across the street, inside the loop, or in Tennessee. Or even Italy for that matter.
I can’t believe it’s been 21 years since Blue Willow first opened its doors. Our first storytime friends are coming home from college, and our American Girl Club girls have children of their own.
I’m reminded of a quote we have on our wall, hidden among the 750+ author signatures: "And so it goes".
Here’s to many more years of books and friendship.