Welcome to the 2024 Women Honoring the West Series!
Happy New Year!!
I have thoroughly enjoyed this Inspirational Western Women Series. Many of the women are writer sisters and others are new friends. They are all amazing ladies who have a heart for the West.
To kick off this year, here’s Part 1 of an interview with the fabulous Bobbi Jean Bell.
My husband, Jim Bell, and I host a weekly radio show, “Rendezvous With A Writer.” What follows are answers to questions he might ask if I was a guest on our show.
1. What’s your story? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in a family that valued history, the arts, and reading. Vacations often included visits to museums and historic sites. There’s nothing more exciting than a walk-through history and imagining life in another time and place.
The theater was another interest. My Mom and sister, Wendy, and I loved the music of Broadway and it was part of my family’s diverse musical landscape. I made my acting debut in high school and was a theater major in college.
Today, I’m more comfortable behind the microphone than in front of it but the experience of performing in live theater set me up for much of what followed. Organizing and leading workshops, collaborating on small teams, and an ease with public speaking are all the results of my years in theater.
My work experience has been with a wide variety of retailers and products. My retail career began in 1978 with JC Penney, (that’s where Jim and I met), and includes department stores, boutique shops, and a non-profit retailing experience.
For me, one of the joys of retailing is the daily act of service to all those I encounter – customers and co-workers. “What can I do for you?” or “How can I assist you?” are two favorite questions.
Although I never had a clear image of “what I want to be when I grow up,” the life I live today has its roots in all three of those areas.
2. What took you from the East Coast to the West Coast?
In the fall of 1990, my husband Jim announced we were moving West, to California. His employer was based in Montrose, CA and his skills were needed at the home office. Although I moved several times as a child and young adult, all the moves were within New England and upstate New York…a move to California was a chilling prospect! How would we survive?
Everyone in California was thin, tan, laid back, used words like “dude,” and they had odd state laws. We would be out of our comfort zone.
I was terrified.
My librarian sister, Wendy, began sending me books about women’s experiences moving West. Her thought was – if they could do it, I could do it. I was hooked. We made the move to a wonderful sunlight condo rental in Pasadena, within walking distance of Old Pasadena and a stone’s throw from the Pasadena Rose Parade route.
3. How did the move to California impact your life?
Once settled, we began to explore this new world. Museums were the first places we visited, including the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, as it was known at the time. I read about a critically acclaimed traveling exhibition closing soon. “Crossroads of the Continents” told the story of Russia’s exploration of the West Coast.
Most of the artifacts had never left Russia before and it was stunning to experience. The exhibition was so large it took all day to enjoy. While we strolled from case to case, stopping for label copy, we heard a guide with a tour group. I learned one of the volunteer opportunities offered was docent-led group tours. That got my attention.
Shortly after, I heard a public announcement on the local country music station that the Autry was looking for volunteers for the docent program. Calling immediately, I had an interview that same day. When I left I was a volunteer with my first assignment for the next day.
I arrived nearly every day and assisted wherever I was needed. The nine-month docent training began in the fall of 1991, I was hooked! In the fall of 1992, I led docent tours.
4. Tell us about your years at the Autry Museum of the American West
Jim was as interested in the West as I and, together, we attended every lecture, panel discussion, and live music event we could. Here we first heard Don Edwards, Sons of the San Joaquin, Michael Martin Murphey, Katy Moffatt, Wylie and the Wild West, Buck Ramsey, Brenn Hill, R.W. Hampton, Riders In The Sky, and many others. Here is where I met Richard Farnsworth, Jim Arness, Marty Stuart, Cheryl Rogers-Barnett, and…Gene Autry.
Here is where our affair with the West began, we fell deeply in love with our nation’s Western heritage, its people, history, landscape, and culture. This passion set our life on a new trajectory – one we still follow today.
5. How did your Western online store, OutWest Shop, get started?
We relocated from Pasadena to Santa Clarita, CA in 1998. We had several friends there and it was home to the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival – a plus!
In 2007, Jim and I took the entrepreneurial “leap of faith” and opened our own retail business celebrating the Spirit of the West. Jim’s powerful dream was to create an online business offering the finest in Western apparel and accessories. We developed friendships with Western vendors including leather designer Anthony Manz of Renegade Spirit Leather. I came home one day to find a big box on our doorstep.
It arrived around my birthday so, naturally, I thought it was for me!
Opening it, I discovered 12 gorgeous leather jackets in various sizes. Not for me. Little did I know, this was the beginning of our new business. Jim had the domain name and was working with a web designer, our niece, Sara, on a website. Professional pictures were taken, I wrote product descriptions and we were up and running!
Today the website, www.OutWestShop.com, offers a wide selection of apparel and accessories from major suppliers like Scully Leather Co., Rockmount Ranch Wear, White Horse Apparel, Liberty Wear, American West Handbags and more.
6. What’s the story behind your storefront, OutWest Boutique and Cultural Center?
Both Jim and I had a rich background of retail experience, online was OK, but we missed meeting and greeting customers. We missed the “hustle and bustle” of life in a store. We missed working alongside others. We began to dream of opening our own store.
The first thing we needed was our own “Code of the West.”
Everything we did had to relate to it. It would be our guide for product purchase decisions, special events and promotions, and finding our place in the community. Jim developed our three-point OutWest Creed.
1. To Bring the Mystique of the West (Fact, Fiction & Legend) to the Marketplace.
2. To Introduce Artisans, Musicians, and Makers of Specialty Products to a Worldwide Audience.
3. To Nurture A Dream of All Those Who See an Inspiration for Today from Traditions of the Past.
When you put your faith into action, things happen.
I witnessed this principle again and again. In fall 2008 our phone rang. It was the Arts and Events staff of the City of Santa Clarita calling. Would we be interested in meeting with them to discuss an opportunity during the 2009 Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival?
“YES” was our reply.
Fast forward to April 2009, we came alongside the city as a community partner organizing and running a new venue for the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, the Buckaroo Book Shop. We invited 22 authors to be with us, reading aloud, on panel discussions, and signing their books. It was a great success and we have been honored to be invited back every year since.
In August of 2009 our storefront, OutWest Boutique and Cultural Center, opened its doors. Located a couple of blocks from the William S. Hart Park and Museum, right in the center of the “Arts and Events District” of historic Old Town Newhall, on the Western Walk of Stars, we found OutWest’s home.
When I answered the first incoming phone call my unprepared and unrehearsed greeting was “It’s Always A Great Day OutWest! How can I assist you?”
It became our theme.
For a chance to win a digital copy of Renewed Hope, ask Bobbi Jean a question or leave a comment in the comment section!
Connect with Bobbi Jean Bell and Listen to the Radio Program
Bobbi Jean Bell
Facebook Personal – https://www.facebook.com/bobbi.j.bell/
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbi-jean-bell-a2391a4/
Website – https://www.outwestshop.com/
Rendezvous With A Writer
OutWest Shop Website – https://www.outwestshop.com/pages/rendezvous-with-a-writer
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WritersOutWest
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/rendezvouswithawriteroutwest/
LA Talk Radio – https://www.latalkradio.com/content/rendezvous-writer
OutWest Shop Website – https://www.outwestshop.com/pages/outwest-hour-radio-show
Mixcloud -Follow Me – https://www.mixcloud.com/DJBobbiJeanBell/
KUPR Archive – https://spinitron.com/KUPR/dj/155703/Bobbi-Jean-Bell
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/outwesthour
Equestrian Legacy Radio – Campfire Café and Saddle Up America
OutWest Shop Website – https://www.outwestshop.com/pages/equestrian-legacy-radio-network
The Writer’s Block Radio Show
OutWest Shop Website – https://www.outwestshop.com/pages/the-writers-block-radio-show
LA Talk Radio – https://www.latalkradio.com/content/writers-block
SCVTV Presents The OutWest Concert Series
OutWest Shop Website – https://www.outwestshop.com/pages/outwest-concert-series
SCVTV Website (73 concerts filmed) – https://scvtv.com/category/arts-entertainment/music/outwest/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/SCVTVOutWest/
What a gal! Thanks for taking the time to learn about Bobbie Jean and her story. Remember, drop a question or comment in the comment section for a chance to win a digital copy of Renewed Hope.