Unexpected Fun and Funk
“C’mon, Mom. You’ll have fun. You loved the crawdads when we had them before,” said our oldest son. “You can stay with us.” His younger brother and wife had accepted the invitation. They live in Houston but we usually run back and forth between their homes when we visit. Being together is a treat.
The problem: Super Bowl weekend in Houston. Although neither son lives downtown, I pictured sitting in traffic for hours. Two-hundred-seventy-five mile one way from Dallas to his house. But, we love to travel. Maybe we could leave early on Friday and return Sunday morning to avoid traffic. I would call the motel near his place and we’d leave Friday.
Double the Money
Whoops! The Houston hotels doubled their prices and were undoubtedly booked. After I stopped hyperventilating, I searched for a Bed and Breakfast for Friday night in Navasota, an hour northwest of Houston. We would stay with the older son on Saturday. We had stopped in Navasota several times to visit antique shops. Navasota offers streets with huge mansions, big yards, gigantic trees, and a quaint downtown.
Bogart’s Casa Blanca looked inviting. The prices seemed reasonable but could the dog stay there? He could! When I reached Dwayne Fuller, the owner, he said the Mae West Efficiency Apartment was available. Although dogs are not usually welcome, he agreed to Fargo’s inclusion.
Dwayne’s Devine Decor
Bogart’s is, shall we say, funky. Eclectic might be a better term. The word “pizzazz” and “eye catching” come to mind. An antique sleigh bed stood in the middle of the room. The carpet looked like the designer chose colors from a kindergartner’s Crayola box. We would need to brush our teeth in the “kitchen.” Dwayne opened a cupboard door on the other side of the room and voila, a place with light and mirror for make up in the morning. He wanted to know what time he should bring our breakfast. He would cook.
The Renaissance Man
According to his story he operated a spa and event center in the location with eight salon chairs. When he renovated, he closed the hair salon and created four rooms for the B&B and current event center.
Dwayne is an older, tall, handsome, athletic-looking man. “Tell me more, Dwayne,” I begged.
When he graduated from a tiny high school in Arkansas he boarded a bus to live with an older brother in Houston, leaving the farm for good. He trained as a hairdresser, attracting a huge following of clients. He bought a big house on the main drag in the Heights (long a funky section in Houston) and created a hotel and events center.
His involvement in the professional hairdressers’ association led to teaching and certifying new hairdressers throughout Texas and farther locations, including an exciting trip to Hungary to teach one class. He and another beautician owned five salons in Houston, which flourished.
Fuller attended classes to become a licensed real estate dealer. His sister taught him interior design for huge events, weddings and parties. His natural creativity and opulent decor attracted the rich and famous. When he tired of the rat race, he sold his place in the Heights and moved to Navasota where he bought three big, old homes on Washington Avenue. More parties and notoriety followed. When I asked him to recall a favorite event, he remembered the author from Paris who planned her wedding for the Navasota location: it took 18 months of international planning and preparation.
When Dwayne fell off a ladder he transformed his life. He could no longer care for three big mansions. He sold two of them, making life easier with space for 15 guests a night and 200 for events.
I asked what has made him so successful. His response was as eloquent as his funky décor. “You must consider the customers. Give them what they expect. Cleanliness. And you must love people.”
If you like stark hotel rooms, this is not the place for you. One night worked for us although when we visit again, we’ll try a bigger unit. If you want to see the results of many years as a hotelier with the collection of antiques, unusual knick-knacks, colorful combinations of paintings and art objects, you need to visit Bogarts. “I’m still having fun,” he laughs, as he invites us to return soon.
It was Super Bowl weekend and Chinese New Year. Our impromptu planning reminds me that extensive planning is not always necessary. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to travel on the spur of the moment. Unexpected surprises await when least expected.