Texas Junk Company owner Bob Novotney first learned that he'd lost his lease back in mid-August. Initially, he had to be out of the store by September 30, though that was later extended to October 3. Now, Novotney's unsure of when the store will close – he advised potential customers to check the store's Facebook page on Saturday nights for updates – but he's still hoping to extend his lease.
“I'm looking for April, so that I can make it through the Super Bowl and have my last Rodeo,” Novotney said. “Doesn't that sound good? The last rodeo for Texas Junk Company.”
Novotney said he'll likely be in town till Halloween, but he's already moving his wares to the Texas Junk Company's new location, in Moulton, about two hours west of Houston. Judging by the crowd of customers that showed up to the store on Saturday, which was thought to be the store's last day, Novotney and his junk will be missed.
Back in the '70s, Novotney was living in Houston when he decided to travel the world. For a few years, he lived as a nomad, spending his summers in Latin America or Hawaii and hitch-hiking to Alaska to work as a firefighter in the off-season. He often stopped in Houston to visit friends and pick up temporary jobs. Then, an old business partner convinced Novotney to start a junk store together. This was in 1979.
“I might've had 50 bucks in my pocket. And I just started scrounging the trash pilots and going to garage sales,” Novotney recalled.
They found the store's Montrose location through a friend whose father ran a jukebox repair business in the same building where the Texas Junk Company now resides. Novotney's partner eventually left the business, and he started accumulating his now-famous boot selection a few years later.
“After many decades of being in the business, I just said, 'Well, with the name of Texas Junk, I ought to have boots. So I just started buying them,” said Novotney, who is now 68. He added that when it comes to boots, he's far from a snob. “I don't look for anything. I just look for boots, period. I'll even buy cheap plastic ones because somebody just needs them for a night…I don't research. I've never researched my merchandise. And that's why I think I've been so popular.”
It didn't hurt that a few years ago, in New York, an editor of Lucky magazine happened to run into a young woman wearing boots she bought from the Texas Junk Company. Lucky staffers ended up traveling to Houston to do a story on the shop, Novotney said. “They fucking made everything explode.”
The Texas Junk Company's popularity is also likely helped by the fact that Novotney prizes his customers' feet over the content of their wallets. When this reporter fell in love with a pair of lace-up boots, Novotney told her to put them back because they were too tight. (It was heartbreaking.)
Like the Houston location, which is usually open only on Fridays and Saturdays, the Moulton store will keep unusual hours. However, instead of being open only on weekends, the Moulton store will be open just one week a month. “It will be the first full week of the month…seven continuous days,” Novotney said. “That would make it so that anybody with a day off can come out.”
And despite the fact that he's already lugged several boxes of junk out to Moulton, Novotney said he might not open them up and instead just sell western goods – including boots – at the new location. “I have no plans of opening them up and starting another junk store,” Novotney said. Then he amended, with a grin: “It'll probably happen. But I don't feel like it right now. I'm tired.”
That sounds like it might be Novotney's motto for his Moulton location: Don't let anything, or anyone, dictate what the store will look like. He doesn't even want to say when it will open, because he doesn't want to commit himself yet to an opening date.
And despite having good memories of his time in Houston, “I'll be glad to be gone,” Novotney said. Though retirement entirely is out of question for now, since he wants to keep active and social, he's thinking about tasting the nomadic life again.
“I'm excited about getting on the road,” Novotney said, adding, “Just go off. 'Oh, I think I'll go up into Canada. I think I'll drive up in Canada, the Arctic Circle or something.' I don't know. Just get the hell out.”
The Texas Junk Company is typically (and for the foreseeable future) open on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Before visiting, make sure to follow the store's Facebook page, at Texas Junk Company, or to call ahead at 713-524-6257 to confirm that the store is open. Bring cash or your checkbook, because the shop doesn't take cards.