Barbara and Bob Malowney grew up and met in the sun-kissed land of San Diego. On August 9th, 1967, while still in school, they took their wedding vows and this year will be celebrating 50 years of wedded bliss. Though the journey that’s brought them to half a century together has been anything but traditional, that seems to suit the Malowneys just fine. When their daughter was three, the family moved from Southern California to Hawaii, selling everything but their VW microbus and the things that would fit in a trunk to “literally live on the beach for a year,” says Bob. He had a job with a t-shirt printing company on Oahu, but quickly came to realize that the job he moved his little family across the water for was not going to provide as much work as he thought. So, he got a job at a steak and seafood restaurant during the lunchtime hours which provided an abundance of leftovers, a blessing in a little van with no kitchen. Of that time, Bob says “Living remotely taught us a feeling of independence and gave us time and a clear view of what we would plan for our lives.” They discovered what they wanted most was to live a life that was close to nature. After a year on Oahu, their need for nature brought them to Northern California and ultimately to Chico, a place where they both immediately felt comfortable. Moving onto land west of town, they raised goats and chickens and put innumerable hours into cultivating a large garden. Barbara had a job at the bowling alley as a short-order cook and Bob mixed granola for Lassen Foods until they were able to get their next venture up and running.
In 1972, they created the Black Mountain Media company, which changed its name to Media Screenprint in 1975. Both Malowneys are extremely art-minded and before long they had an active and thriving base of clientele. Among these was Downtown Chico, which benefitted from the Malowney’s creation of posters for various events from the 1970s to the 1990s, sometimes up to two a week. These posters have become quite collectable and can be seen at businesses around town, most notably Shubert’s Ice Cream & Candy as well as in the Bird in Hand store itself, high up on the walls. Media Screenprint created posters for every event from the Downtown Chico parades to Slice of Chico and the farmer’s markets in the distinct style the Malowneys are now known for. Pretty soon, they were looking for gallery space to sell their work and eventually began to sell T-shirts, posters, and kites at the Bird in Hand Gallery. Of course, over time, the shirt selection grew to include Hawaiian shirts and the kite section grew to include yo-yos and toys. “The rest,” says Bob, “is history.”
Bird in Hand is Chico’s most beloved purveyor of everything from kites to early learning toys and games as well as stuffed animals, board games, and a huge selection of puzzles. On the opposite side of the store, one can find specialty greeting cards, housewares of all kinds, and shirts in an array of Hawaiian prints evocative of the island where Barbara and Bob first dreamed of how they would make a happy life. “Starting and maintaining a local business has allowed us to live in the town (where) we wished to stay,” says Bob. “It provided us the opportunity to become part of a community and to develop the appreciative understanding of our ‘hometown’ that comes with time. We feel it was a good use of 45 years.”
Golden Valley Bank was proud to be a Legacy Partner for the Chico Chamber Summer Bash in June that honored Bird In Hand along with Made in Chico for 35 years in business. The Malowneys have partnered with us as customers and our staff enjoy seeing both Barbara and Bob in the bank on a fairly regular basis. Local, lovingly owned businesses like Bird In Hand are what will keep our community growing for generations to come.
Written by Maddie Rodriguez, GVB Client Services Representative