Mary Beth Janssen chats with Kathy Patrick about her passion for beauty and books.

What do First Lady Laura Bush, Oprah Winfrey, Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley, and “Beauty and the Book’s” Kathy Patrick have in common? They all share a commitment to promote literacy.



Passionate in her determination to further the cause, Patrick founded Beauty and the Book, a combination salon/bookstore in Jefferson, Texas. A hairdresser for 30 years, she believes in the power of reading to change lives and is living proof that one can follow her dreams and have fun in the process.



“I dropped out of college to get my beauty license so that I could help my parents put my sisters and ME through college. I ended up opening a salon in my hometown of Eureka, Kansas. It was very cool, and I ran it for many years until I decided to go back to college. I don’t think there is anything better in this world than hairdressing to serve others.



“I moved to Texas, married and started a family, and once I had my child, I wanted to do something that would really make a difference and realized that the most important thing in my life—aside from beauty—had always been books.



“It wasn’t until my adult life that I realized how far books could really take me. Education is freedom to live the lives we want to live. If you know how to read, you can educate yourself and have the tools to better yourself.



“I worked in a bookstore and then did a stint as a book publisher’s representative, traveling and selling to bookstores (and as always, doing hair on the side). I lost that job because of consolidation [in the book market] and the influx of chains. It was a rude awakening for me; I’m not the kind of person who has always known what they were meant to do with their life. It was depressing to lose that job, because I loved it so much.



“After a few weeks of a pity party, my sister said, ‘Open your salon back up. You’ve always been successful doing hair. And add a bookstore to it, too.’ I thought, ‘What a brilliant idea!’ I love beauty, love books and love authors.



“When I first opened Beauty and the Book 10 years ago, I sent out press releases to everyone and really got the media’s attention. John Grisham’s Oxford American magazine was followed by the Oprah Winfrey people, Oxygen Network, and then we went on the ‘Today’ and ‘Good Morning America’ shows. The Los Angeles Times did a feature on us (which elicited more than 1,000 phone calls). I had television shows, agents and more calling. Linda Bloodworth Thomason, who created ‘Designing Women,’ called and wanted to visit.



“This really struck a chord with people. It’s a big trend in retailing to offer a service and a product.



“People here will read to the kids while their parents are getting their hair done. We do regular story hours.



“And then there’s the ‘Pulpwood Queens Book Club,’ which I started shortly after opening Beauty and the Book. It started with six women and now has gone to well over 1,000 members with more than 100 chapters. We’re one of the largest meet-and-discuss book clubs in existence.



And the authors that I pick agree to call into any of the individual chapters with teleconferences and often will go visit a chapter.



“I feature one author a month. I really roll out the red carpet for the authors when they come to Beauty and the Book for a book signing. I’ll have anywhere from 30 people to 200 and even up to 600 for [Texas gubernatorial candidate] Kinky Friedman.



“I only know of two people who have done something similar. One is a barber shop/bookstore in Los Angeles, and he’s expanding his idea in Hispanic neighborhoods. And there’s an African-American salon/bookstore in New Jersey.



“My advice? Pay it forward. If you have any books you haven’t picked up in years, please donate. Share any unused books with your local shelter, library or assisted living center.



“Become the change you want to see, right? You can enjoy life and do something good at the same time.”

Root Awakenings: Kathy Patrick
Kathy Patrick