Main Street

A Walgreens sits splat at the corner of Woodway Drive and Chimney Rock Road in Houston's new-money enclave called Tanglewood. But you won't spot Barbara Bush scouring the shelves with the hoi polloi at the multibillion-dollar chain's store. Down the street, however, in an upscale peach-hued strip mall, Bush and longtime pal Mildred "Millie" Kerr find regular sanctuary in the tonier confines of Tanglewood Pharmacy and Stationery.

Only 12 years old, Tanglewood has found a loyal following among local politicos, arts mavens, entertainers, sports stars, and -- this being Houston -- a legendary wildcatter or two. Former treasury secretary Lloyd Bentsen has been a customer. Former Houston Rockets hoopster Clyde Drexler, too. Owners Jim and Marjorie Maxfield are full of encomiums for their celebrity clientele, and customers have been known to reply in kind. When ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons stopped in -- his mother, Lorraine, is a regular -- he gave the Maxfields' son a 15-minute motivational talk on playing bass guitar. An autographed pair of gymnast Mary Lou Retton's teeny-tiny gym slippers are displayed in Marjorie's office; Tanglewood prepared the gold medalist's wedding invitations.

Several years back, James Baker dropped by, paying for his order with a $100 greenback engraved with his signature. The former treasury secretary then signed the bill above his preprinted autograph. That bill became the first display in "You Are What You Write On," an in-store exhibit in honor of Tanglewood's new stationery wing. The exhibit features the John Hancocks of some 80 high-profile Houstonians on items for which they're famous. The shell of former Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer's laptop. George Foreman's candy-apple red boxing glove. The cover page of trial lawyer Joe Jamail's landmark $10.5-billion Pennzoil v. Texaco jury award.

Tanglewood's shelves are festooned with Niven Morgan candles and Authentic Model wooden boats. Come Christmas, the Maxfields ring up sales of 50 to 100 German nutcrackers a week, some fetching as much as $300. (Tanglewood, after all, is home to an 800-member nutcracker club). The Maxfields credit their upscale lines with helping to attract the store's larger-than-life clientele. But there's also the lure of anonymity that, oddly, dovetails with a sense of community. "We treat them like regular customers," says Marjorie. "And they see their friends here; it's a meeting place."


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