The town of Boerne dates to 1852, when it was first laid out around a town square (Main Plaza) which still exists as the central gathering spot for concerts, events, festivals, and Market Days. By the 1880’s, Boerne had grown a reputation as having a healthy environment for those suffering from respiratory issues, and soon, it would boast hotels, a few hundred residents, and profitable businesses. As the century turned and the automobile began replacing horse and buggies, an enterprising man named Arno Richter would open “Richter’s Garage” at 153 Main Street in 1918 where he would work on cars, including the popular Ford Model T.
As the town thrived and bustled with commerce, residents and visitors, a favorite pastime was to gather in one of the many saloons where stout beer and whiskey flowed freely. One of these watering holes, the Metropolitan Saloon, featured an ornate, solid-cherry wooden bar that survived a fire in 1908 thanks to quick work by locals who saved it from a fiery fate. While the building was a complete loss, the bar itself would survive and it would continue to greet thirsty guests at various local bars, including one owned by Max Bessler, who operated it and served from the bar until his death in 1939. In the decades since, the bar remained in active use at other locations along Main Street until the 1970’s, when it would retire to a quieter life at a local corporate office until it was brought back to life in a grand way as the focal point of a fabulous new Boerne destination. That new destination is situated in the footprint of Arno Richter’s garage at 153 Main Street, and features shopping, dining, and drinking—but in a way that this town has never seen before. In fact, that was exactly the point when the husband-and-wife owners, Guy and Joi Sanders, first envisioned the new incarnation of the Richter Building more than four years ago.
“Of all the towns where we could have built our dream, Boerne was our first choice,” said Guy Sanders, who added that it was the ideal location between San Antonio and Austin, along with the reputation of Boerne as being on the verge of rediscovery. Before long, the couple had purchased the one-time Richter’s Garage (which had become a Ford dealership and an antique mall in the decades that followed) and set about a massive transformation that nearly doubled the footprint and added another story.
This historic, iconic building, whose name the couple revived as a nod to its original owner, houses Richter Tavern, Richter Cork and Keg, and Richter Bakhaus. In addition to dining and drinking venues, the Richter Building is also home to retail shops, collectively known as The Shops at 153 Main.
The Shops at 153 Main include Plaza Taxco, a silver jewelry and Mexican handcrafts store that also has a popular following through their La Villita and Market Square locations in San Antonio; Uptown Chic Boutique and Gifts, which features on-trend women and children’s fashions, and The Boerne Bookshop, where you will find the latest best-sellers, children’s books, local and regional authors, and classics.
As you enter the passageway from Main Street that leads to the shops, you’ll come upon an authentic Ford Model-T in the hallway, along with a display of original parts that were found during excavation and renovation of the building. Throughout the space, original artwork lines the walls that is largely the work of owner Guy Sanders, a talented artist with an eclectic range of subjects and styles.
Also located in the building are Richter Cork and Keg, a cozy first-floor space that offers lunch and dinner, premium wines, local and national craft brews. Popular Richter Bakhaus is a fabulous bakery that serves up breakfast and lunch in a café setting, along with fresh artisan breads, lattes, and other coffee drinks. Not to be missed is the famous “duffin”— a muffin and donut hybrid that is a local favorite.
Heading up the staircase, you will soon encounter Richter Tavern, a second-floor 1920’s industrial-themed bar and restaurant that you will swear has always been there—despite just having opened this year. The attention to detail and painstaking return to its historical roots are evident in every brick, rafter, and hardware in the place. Wife Joi was largely responsible for the interior décor and finishes, and the husband and wife team both shared a vision for how they wanted the place to look—with “authenticity” being the key to every detail.
“We wanted a marriage between high design and the historic roots of the building,” Guy added. And they absolutely got it right, according to the locals who had a watchful eye as the building was being renovated. The owners even found many old whiskey bottles that were uncovered in the once-alleyway between the Richter garage and the Max’s bar next door—likely having been secretly passed back and forth during Prohibition. Many of these discovered artifacts are displayed throughout the space, along with historical photos of the building. And then right as you exit the staircase and walk into the upstairs tavern, there it is: the bar. The same, exact one that locals frantically saved from a fire more than a century earlier.
Now lovingly brought back to its former, historical accuracy by expert craftsmen who used archival photos to restore every detail as much as possible, the bar is the oldest one in the Texas Hill Country. Gorgeous in every detail, its glistening mirrors and polished cherry wood is the focal point where “history meets hip” because today, you can often find kilt-wearing beverage director Michael Rogers behind the bar. An acclaimed bartender and mixologist who trained at Red Rock Casino and Resort in Las Vegas, Rogers has since played a role in the launch of several high-end establishments as he sought to evolve the local bar scene.
Specialty cocktails include the Richter Fashioned, the Max Mule, Tom Collins, “Dial M for Martini”, Tequila Honeysuckle, 1920’s Manhattan, All Dressed Up (a blend of bourbon, vanilla liqueur, and allspice), and The Great Bet (a tangy sweet and savory whiskey cocktail). In fact, the bar is so popular that one guest reportedly never left. Employees say they have seen a man leaning against a bar stool after hours, and though the figure is shadowy, they say the man is undoubtedly Max Bessler.
Richter Tavern also features seasonal-inspired specialties from Executive Head Chef Bill McGrory, who offers new twists on classic American cuisine with rotating selections. Chef McGrory began his culinary career while serving in the US Coast Guard, but soon set his eyes on land instead of sea. After honing his craft at several James Beard award-winning restaurants in New York City, he eventually made his way to Texas where his elevated dishes bring a new sophistication to the local dining scene.
Upscale and American-inspired specialties include starters such as a chef-curated charcuterie and cheese plate, grilled pork belly, chili garlic shrimp, and salads. They also serve hand-crafted, artisanal pizzas, and entrees that include NY Strip, Grilled Mahi Mahi, Shrimp Tacos, Beef Stroganoff, Tomato Basil Pasta, and other rotating specials. For dessert, they feature an assortment of cheesecake, as well as Berries ‘N’ Bubbly Sorbet -- an adults-only house-made strawberry sorbet infused with sparkling wine and limoncello with a touch of balsamic.
Both indoor dining and outdoor eating space is available, with the second-story balconies overlooking the heart of downtown Boerne. To complete the glamorous 1920’s feel, old black and white silent movie clips project onto interior brick walls, and guests who are searching for the men’s and women’s restrooms are treated to the ornately decorated Bogie and Bacall rooms. (Side note for millennials: Actors Humphrey “Bogie” Bogart and Lauren Bacall were a glamorous, scandalous Hollywood couple in the 40’s and 50’s.)
Rumor has it that the long-anticipated, members-only private club, Oben, will debut later this year featuring private wine lockers, an exclusive elevator entrance and ultra-high-end spirits served in a private lounge.
In addition to the Richter Building, many other historic buildings in Boerne have been repurposed with new life while maintaining architectural and historic integrity with modern-day uses as breweries, inns, restaurants, and retail establishments. While in town, take a stroll along the famed Hill Country Mile, where you’ll find an array of shopping and dining, or search for the public art sculptures that are scattered throughout the Hill Country Mile, trail systems and the library grounds. For more information about Boerne (and where to stay while you are here!) feel free to poke around the website and don’t forget to check out the latest sweepstakes package!