Kathy Murphy, formerly the owner of the now closed Heart of Pine bed and breakfast, swapped innkeeping to focus on her love of books. She took a job with a book publisher but it didn't quite last as long as she had hoped. "I lost my job as a book publishing rep because all these big box stores came in and my accounts started closing. I was the last one hired, so I was the first one let go. I was really pretty devastated," she said. "It was just before Christmas too, in 1999."
Unsure what to do next, Kathy (now Murphy, formerly Patrick) went home and called her sister. "'What do you think I ought to do?'" she asked. "My sister said 'Why don’t you go back to doing hair?' because that's how I put myself through college. 'Why don't you do the book thing too?' So that's what I did. I opened the first [and only] salon/book store."
Beauty and the Book at The Nail and Hair Shed in Hawkins, Texas, opened on January 18, 2000.
"I opened kind of with a bang. From the minute we opened it people started calling me to do stories," explained Kathy.
Three months into the swing of things, a local book club asked Kathy to attend a meeting. She thought they were asking her to join the club but it wasn't long before she figured out she was only invited as a one-time guest. "I couldn't figure out why, so I asked and they said they could only fit eight people around the table. I thought, well, that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard in my life. So I started my own book club."
Kathy set a date for her first official book club gathering. She called all her friends and family, and told her hair clientele all about her new club. To her dismay, none of them showed up. "Only six strangers showed up. I guess they thought: What does this Southern hairdresser know about reading?"
But those six were enough to get the page turning and thus, the Pulpwood Queens book club was born.
"I had this idea that we should all wear tiaras and one of the women said 'I don't think I would be comfortable wearing a tiara. I'm not a beauty queen.'But that's the whole purpose. We're going to be the beauty within queens because we're readers. By the time she'd had more wine, she'd become OK with that tiara," joked Kathy. (On right: Kathy with her tiara. Credit: Kathy Murphy)
But why tiaras? "It stems back to when I was a kid, I'd safety pin a towel to my shoulder and I'd comb my hair and my sister and I would pretend we were beauty queens."
As Kathy grew older, her mom pushed her into beauty pageants. The real life pageants were nothing like the pretend pageants she and her sister would orchestrate. "I never really had the figure. I didn't win anything. I was totally humiliated when they read my measurements," Kathy said. The experience really instilled a message in her about internal beauty that's central to her life and her business. "We're the beauty within queens, I think it's more important. I am a beauty professional at the same time though, I think that we don't have to be artificial or something that we're not. I explained this to girls and told them that wearing the crown will make people realize'Hey every person here gets to wear the crown. Everyone is a queen.'"
The following month by 7 pm no one had showed up. "I thought I must've freaked everybody out but then I saw a profession coming down the road, I thought it was a funeral but it was 35 women coming to my club!"
Now 16-years later, Kathy has more than 2,000 members and 600 chapters, including 15 in foreign countries and one in a women's prison. She's been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, and countless other media. She's also become an author herself, writingThe Pulpwood Queens' Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life.
Every year she hosts a Girlfriends Weekend with a costume theme. She's just returned from her festivities in Nacogdoches, Texas … where she learned the very exciting news that her book would be made into a major motion picture by DreamWorks. (On left: Kathy wearing a special handmade tiara she recently received from Pulpwood Queen Bren McClain of the Charleston, SC chapter. Credit: Kathy Murphy)
True to her B&B past, Kathy and her family stayed at The Jones House bed and breakfast and held their numerous activities at the nearby Mast Hall (also owned by the bed and breakfast). Most conference-goers stayed at local inns. As with most book events Kathy puts together, the media was there to cover it. KTRE-TV produced a news segment. The Longview News-Journal wrote two stories.
The Jones House says Kathy's stay has sparked some interest in the inn. "I've had a few people come down from the meeting at Mast Hall and want to tour the house. They want to stay here next year but, well, Kathy will have first choice so we'll have to see," said innkeeper Cathy Sanders.
"I guess that nobody else has really done this," says Kathy. "The biggest surprise is that people have stuck with it and continued to spread the word. I thought this would be winding down, we're Baby Boomers, but now we have all these young people coming aboard. I think it's going to grow. You just never really know what's around the bend. I'd just downsized my shop because I'm getting older and that's when I got a call from a producer to make this into a movie. "
Kathy says she still hand picks the books herself. She still cuts and styles hair. She still talks about books all thetime. There's really only one major difference: "I used to lend books to my clients and wouldn't always get them back. Now I sell them," she chuckled.
Kathy loves Southern fiction. Her all-time favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird. "One of biggest thrills for me was taking my kids to Alabama to the court house to watch the film version for the 50th anniversary and hanging out with Scout. It's like I walked into the story and there I sat, I get teary-eyed every time I think about it."
Do you have a passion or hobby that you could incorporate into you bed and breakfast? Maybe that could be part of your inn's branding? Kathy's love of books is palpable. Her tiaras, leopardskin clothes, and joy are hard to miss. Sometimes the things that make you eccentric, are the keys to success -- and media attention.
To learn more about Beauty and the Book and the Pulpwood Queens, visit: www.beautyandthebook.com.
To view fun photos from the latest Girlfriends Weekend, visit: