“We’ve been hit before, so the virus is just another storm we’ll weather through,” owner Kim Morrison Murdock said.
The virus has put a damper on walk-ins, but the store’s crew has adapted to offer sales and service by phone, text and a website chat feature. And with more people stuck at home, Murdock said, pool tables are getting new attention as parents look for ways to bring the family together.
“It keeps the kids in the house and entertained for hours,” she said.
International Billiards was founded in 1940 by Bill Morrison and moved from Houston’s east side to its current location in 1968, a former piano builder’s shop on Washington Avenue.
“We swear it used to be haunted,” Murdock said.
The business has transitioned from vending to importing coin-operated pool tables and amusement machines to manufacturing to the single store, enduring through oil busts, hurricanes and changing customer preferences.
Today, the store sells both American and imported pool tables, shuffleboards, foosball tables, table tennis and accessories, including lighting, cues, cue racks, bar stools and decor.
Local interior designers turn to the store to outfit club rooms and breakrooms for clients, Murdock said, and they have outfitted more than a few “man caves” and family game rooms. The shop also works with multifamily design firms both locally and nationally to equip apartment communities with entertainment amenities.
Professional delivery and installation services are available, which are a must since tables need special calibration to ensure they are perfectly level.
International Billiards can also move, reinstall, recover, and replace rail rubber on customers’ existing tables, which can become family keepsakes.
The store’s history is built on years-deep loyalty, Murdock said.
“Even our customers are multi-generational: As the kids grew up and they get a house, they want a pool table like they grew up with,” Murdock said.
Four generations of the family have worked in the store. Murdock’s father, Al Morrison, retired in 2016 but is still considered the patriarch of the company. Her sons TJ and Ryan have done stints there, and her daughter Heather now helps on the sales floor, with her children—Murdock’s grandchildren—crawling and playing in the showroom occasionally.
“I know we are never going to get rich doing this, but we take care of everybody, and it means a lot to keep the business going,” Murdock said.
2311 Washington Ave., Houston
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Sun.