Whether it’s assisting customers in a whimsical boutique, meeting the needs of businesses and homeowners, or helping to heal the wounded, these three Hill Country women have each answered the call to service amid the unexpected twists and turns of their own lives.
Gruene With Envy, New Braunfels, Texas
Twenty years ago, New Braunfels native, Debbie Bell returned to her hometown looking for work after a failed marriage with two young sons in tow. Serendipitously, Bell stumbled upon a job as a manager of a newly- opened boutique in Gruene, appropriately called Gruene With Envy. It was within the walls of Gruene With Envy that she bloomed under the mentorship of the boutique’s owner, Nita Dixon. Ten years into Bell’s employment, Dixon announced, “I’m retiring and you have to buy this store!”
Bell knew that the opportunity to purchase the boutique was an offer that she couldn’t refuse. However, faced with financial hardship and finding that no one in town was willing to give a loan to a single mother, Bell did the only thing she knew to do. She persevered.
“I went to banks, and they’d say, ‘That’s impossible!’ but I just kept going back and I didn’t give up,” remembered Bell. Eventually, Bell was able to make her dream a reality, and she purchased Gruene With Envy 10 years ago.
The boutique that offered a harbor for Bell is now celebrating its 20th year in business. A large party was planned to commemorate the anniversary, but a global pandemic had other plans.
So, just like countless other businesses amid the COVID-19 crisis, Gruene With Envy performed a “pivot,” and beefed up its Internet sales. “We got orders from people in Maine, Massachusetts, California, Nebraska, Wyoming,” said Bell.
Gruene With Envy hopes to have its 20th anniversary celebration at a later date and celebrate the occasion with the tourists and locals alike who have come to love the boutique.
Interior Protection Systems, New Braunfels, Texas
Successful Kuper Sotheby’s Realtor and New Braunfels native, Ginger Browning wanted a business she could call her own. When Browning’s husband retired, she started brainstorming business ventures that might complement her lucrative real estate career. It was during this time spent in luxury homes, seeing homeowners struggle to keep their homes beautiful and healthy, that Browning decided on her next move.
Three years ago, Browning started Interior Protection Systems, a high-end textile protection service. Operating primarily in homes, office buildings, nursing homes, and hospitals, Interior Protection Systems offers the treatment of interior textiles to protect against staining, wear and tear, and UV. The treatment also renders textiles bacteriostatic, resisting the growth and spread of pathogens, which is of utmost importance during this time.
Browning enjoys the flexibility that being a small business owner affords her. She is able to help care for elderly parents as well as enjoy beekeeping, riding motorcycles, and kayaking with her husband.
As the industry partner liaison for the American Society of Interior Design, San Antonio chapter, Browning garners inspiration from doing what is right by the world. She is hopeful that Interior Protection Systems can help make furniture more sustainable and extend the serviceable life of these items.
“I want the best for my clients and for the world,” says Browning. “I want to do what’s right, using a sustainable product, offering the best service I can to my clients. The best thing you can do as a business owner is to help other people solve their problems,” added Browning.
Hidden Springs Youth Ranch, Converse, Texas
Located just 15 minutes from downtown San Antonio sits a place of quiet serenity where hope is rebuilt, souls are rehabilitated, and life slows down to a more manageable pace. Hidden Springs Youth Ranch founder, Pam Colaw, first had the vision for Hidden Springs Youth Ranch years ago when she realized that kids today don’t often get to visit farms and ranches to interact with the animals.
“Growing up on a farm, I processed a lot of life’s challenges in the barn. When you’re shoveling manure, or weeding a garden, you don’t have time to think about if you’re feeling anxiety today,” said Colaw.
Colaw firmly believes that our circumstances don’t define who we are and don’t predict our future. This rule applies to the families who visit the ranch, which was established in 2014, as well as to the horses, all of whom have been rescued and rehabilitated. Colaw speaks of Ralph, the beloved ranch horse and “retired” cow horse competitor, “Ralph still has a purpose, just because he can’t do that job, he still has a job to do.”
Hidden Springs is the answer to Colaw’s prayer to share her ranch experiences with kids and families who may be struggling. Today, Hidden Springs Youth Ranch relies on the passion and dedication of its volunteers and serves as a safe haven where families and kids come together. The ranch is open to everyone, but estranged families find it to be a safe, neutral territory to rebuild, while kids who are struggling can find healing through the horses.
Hidden Springs Youth Ranch exists to mentor the child, restore hope, repurpose the horse, and grow one’s faith.
BY JENNY JURICA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JASON ROBERTS