Hemi, the director of the welcoming committee, greets every customer at Unmistakably Molly with a big smile on her face. Hemi is not your typical store employee. She is a 12-year-old golden retriever, who loves her job and takes it very seriously, according to her owners.
“Hemi loves to come to work with us because she gets to hang out with the girls,” co-owner Julianne Barns said.
The gift store, located at 4346 Lovers Lane, stands out from others on the block because it is run by three generations of women from one family – and their dog – which is the only way they would have it.
In addition to Hemi, the two storeowners are Molly Barns and daughter Julianne Barns. Molly’s mother, Dianna “Dolly” Rogers also works at the new store and is one of the original storeowners.
Unmistakably Molly is very special to the neighborhood since it has reopened in September, after five years. Rogers and Molly Barns opened the original store in Snider Plaza in 1996, and then retired after almost two decades of working together.
“I was really sad when Unmistakably Molly closed because it was my go to store for gifts,” long-time customer Heather Campbell said. “I am thrilled they reopened, though, because it is once again my go-to store and I love buying fun things for around the house.”
The original Unmistakably Molly sold unique gifts and holiday and home décor that nobody else had, which is a goal for the new store as well.
“We want to have gifts that you don’t find anywhere else and I want to have a variety,” Molly Barns said. “I want you to be able to come in and buy a $12 birthday present that you’re not embarrassed to give, but also a $1,200 gift if you want that too”.
Another goal for the new store was to be just as much of a family place as the original store.
“We want to be personal, we want to know our customers by their first name, and we want to go back to the old fashioned kind of store,” Barns said. “That’s how we did it then and that’s how we are doing it now”.
It all started in the 1990s. Barns was teaching at MuCulloch Middle School in HPISD and owned a jewelry company on the side with Rogers. The two started a jewelry brand called “Molly And Me” in the early 1990s.
After Barns and her husband had two children, Julianne and William, she and her mom decided to expand their business by taking over a store located in Snider Plaza.
Everything was set up under the name “Molly And Me” when their lawyer called from the State Capitol and told them there was already a Molly and Me, Inc. and that they needed to have a new name ready in ten minutes.
As they were on a tight deadline to find a new name, Barns remembers searching Google for “Molly” to see what popped up. That is how they got the name “Unmistakably Molly”.
“We didn’t think it out really well though because nobody can spell it so in hindsight it probably wasn’t the best choice but it was available so we took it,” she said.
Unmistakably Molly opened on May 1, 1996, selling jewelry, home décor, holiday decorations, and gifts. After working side by side with her mother for 17 years, Barns decided it was time to retire when her daughter, Julianne, graduated high school.
After almost five years of retirement, however, Barns began to feel restless.
“Retirement is boring,” she said. “It was fun for like a year and then I was like, ‘hmm how many Lifetime movies can I watch’.”
Julianne Barns graduated from SMU in 2015 with a psychology degree, and got her real estate license right after graduation, but soon realized this was not what she was destined to do.
She began convincing her mom to open the store again. Molly Barns wanted to make sure they were fully prepared for all the hard work it would take.
“It’s weekends, it’s holidays, we’re up here at 10 o’clock at night decorating,” Molly Barns said. “I really made sure this is what I wanted to do and I’m young and I have a lot of years left in me to work so I said why not.”
When they decided to open again, Barns realized this time would be different since she and Julianne would be co-owners. They both agreed that they could not do it without the help of Rogers, whom they made “Director of Fun”. Rogers could not wait to get started again.
Julianne Barns says the best part of co-owning the family store is getting to work with her mother and grandmother every day and having them show her everything there is to owning a business.
“The store is a great joy in my life and being able to work with my daughter and granddaughter is such a plus,” Rogers said. “The store is very uplifting to me and I look forward to many years of being right here.”