Photography courtesy of Amanda Neuhoff
Preston Hollow is Nancy Perot’s childhood neighborhood, and she graduated from The Hockaday School. Her beloved store, Interabang Books, was located in the Preston Royal shopping center before destruction from the Oct. 20 tornado forced her to move the shop to its new location on Lovers Lane. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and Perot found herself managing two business challenges within a year. Her father is 1992 presidential candidate and business tycoon Ross Perot Sr. She has four sons, two stepchildren and a granddaughter. “I loved reading to my boys when they were growing up,” she says. “I got to read to my little granddaughter the other day, even though she’s only 4 months old. It’s never too early.”
What was it like to manage the store when the tornado hit?
The most important thing was that it was at night, and no one was in the store. As one of my sons said to me, “If the store had been open and someone had been hurt, it would have just been a whole different ability to react.” Of course, I was shocked, but then I wanted to assure my staff that the store would go on. The store has brought me so much joy, and I think it’s an important contribution to the city. I told the manager, Kyle, “We have to go out Monday morning and start looking for new spaces.” We found the new space in about two days and had the new lease signed within 10 days.
How has it been with the coronavirus?
It does seem like a double whammy, but I think you have to always keep your sense of humor. Because of the tornado, we quickly pivoted to this e-commerce business. That has really gotten us through. It certainly doesn’t equal having customers in the store and having all the wonderful author events. That’s what we’re missing. The good news is that more people are reading. They have a little more time. There’s a wonderful movement to support local businesses of all kinds.
What inspired your love of books?
My mother was a wonderful reader and educator. She always read to us and took us to the Preston Royal library. Preston Royal always was the book center with an independent bookstore called House of Books and Borders. I was an English major at Vanderbilt. It had a legendary history with the Fugitives — Robert Penn Warren, Alan Tate and John Crowe Ransom — a group that congregated and were part of that English department at Vanderbilt. I remember meeting Eudora Welty.
What was it like growing up with a famous father?
He was our father first and a community leader second. He was a devoted father. There were five of us — three sisters and a brother. They all live here. They are my favorite people, truly. Dad was a lot of fun. He was a real family man. He loved boats and horses, and he had a great sense of humor. He was very principled. We certainly knew what the rules were, but I have to say, it was really a privilege. He was a wonderful example of taking care of other people and being a servant to the community. Everything that he did that put him in the spotlight was driven by principle. I would not say he was somebody who had a desire for fame. He was actually, in many ways, reserved. My mother, too, is a fine, lovely person.
“When you’re in your lane, there is no traffic.”
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Pay attention to those things that really capture your imagination. That’s a real indicator of what you’re meant to do. Pay attention to that, and don’t be afraid to talk to other people about it. Do not discount your dreams. If you become a mother, and children become your primary concern, you still can have time to figure out a way to pursue those dreams. I had a friend who said, “When you’re in your lane, there is no traffic.” I thought that was such a great line.
What are your favorite books?
As a child, I loved “The Secret Garden” and “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle. When I attended St. Michael’s, L’Engle came when I was in the fourth or fifth grade. That made such an impression on me. I still have my “A Wrinkle in Time” copy that she signed. As an adult, I love anything by Ann Tyler or Barbara Kingsolver. I love Kingsolver’s nature writing.
What nonprofits do you support?
I’m involved with a lot of things like KERA, and I was very involved with a big campaign at St. Philip’s in school and at the community center. I love to support anything that has to do with literacy. We’ve been very involved with community partners over the years and United to Learn. We do a lot of book drives at Christmas to help refill their library. We donate a lot of advanced reader copies, which are sent before true publication, and we donate those to The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center. We do a lot of school book fairs where we give a portion back to the schools.
What do you like to do for fun?
We love being with our children. Of course, I love to read. We play golf. We have a place in the country about 70 miles away, where we ride horses. It’s on the river, and there are wonderful birds, wildlife and wild flowers. It’s very peaceful.
How do you achieve work-life balance?
I get mixed up sometimes on what’s work and fun because work is really fun. This pandemic has allowed us to rethink that deeply. I try to unplug more.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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