Alicia Gray, who owns the shop Genara at 3518 White Oak Dr. with husband, Kenton, said she wanted a place that would foster a connection for people with the environment and with their senses.
“I wanted the store to offer a bit of serenity,” Gray said. “I had no idea how much everybody would need that.”
Items at Genara are organized by House + Home, Bodega and Self and the store’s name is an homage to Alicia Gray’s Hispanic grandmother, whose home always felt special, and where there was always something good cooking on the stove.
From 2018-20, the Grays ran the store out of their home with the spare bedroom as the stock room, the living room as their staging area and the front porch for shipping. In July 2020, during the early stages of the pandemic, they moved into their brick-and-mortar location at the intersection of White Oak Drive and Harvard Street.
Although it was a soft opening, Gray said she was gratified to meet people who made her shop one of the first they visited in person.
“People put together beautiful care packages for friends and loved ones and would also sometimes throw something in for themselves,” she said.
Gray said her incense and candles are popular as is the stationery, which makes her happy as a self-proclaimed "stationery nerd."
When Gray could travel more, she gathered products from different markets in different cities. She said it pleases her to provide items that customers can’t get in Houston or may have seen in far-flung places.
While Gray said it’s been wonderful interacting with people online, it is more special to meet them in person.
The recent spike in COVID cases and concern about the Delta variant is a concern to Gray, but she is trying to stay optimistic. Any in-store, large-scale events are off the table for now, but they might be a possibility in the future.
“We just want to continue to provide a peaceful refuge and make connections,” she said.
To shop online, visit https://shopgenara.com/.