When You’re Here, You’re Family
BY: JENNY JURICA
If you head north on 281, you’ll pass through several small, friendly Hill Country communities—first, Spring Branch, and then onto Blanco. Both communities are known for their stunning scenery and warm smiles. These three ladies make their homes and their businesses in this area, where neighbors become friends and customers become family.
Owner Brieger Pottery and Redbud Cafe
Photography by Jason Roberts
Blanco has always felt a bit like home to San Marcos native, Jan Brieger, and her husband, Jon. When the couple would return home from road trips and approach the scenic town, they’d often say, “we’re almost home.” In 1986, however, Blanco became the Brieger’s actual home when they purchased land outside of town and built their home and pottery studio.
When the hardware store in downtown Blanco offered them a small section of the store to rent in 1992, the Briegers jumped at the chance to give up their nomadic craft show lifestyle and put down retail roots in downtown Blanco.
Eventually, the Briegers purchased the hardware store building and opened the Redbud Cafe in the space, with Brieger Pottery housed in the adjacent storefront.
Now, 11 years later, the cafe is pulling through the COVID crisis as a hub for many in Blanco. “Redbud Cafe feels like home to a lot of people,” said Brieger.
“People always know they’ll get a warm welcome and (before COVID) a hug. The Redbud is a good anchor in Blanco and provides a loving, nurturing place for a lot of people,” she added.
Jan is the current president of the Old Blanco Courthouse Society, as well as one of the founders of the Texas Clay Festival, which is (typically) held in Gruene. The festival celebrated its 28th successful year in October but had to convert to a completely virtual platform.
“The Hill Country is a really special, magical place. There’s a lot of good energy in the Hill Country, and the people of Blanco are so warm and welcoming,” added Brieger.
Owner/Founder, Park 31
Spring Branch, Texas
Photography by Amanda Mercer, Walk the line Photography
A native of southeast Texas, Mary Perlitz developed a love for the Hill Country as a child. Perlitz, who has years of decorating and event planning on her resume, always dreamed of having her own venue for weddings, parties, and retreats someday, so when 31 acres of Hill Country land became available near Spring Branch, Perlitz knew that her dream was about to become a reality.
Today, Park 31 is a breathtaking venue with the most impressive views in the Texas Hill Country. But, according to Perlitz, it once required many of her first clients to use their imagination. In the early days, Perlitz met with couples at what was just a slab and dirt floors.
“They had to trust the vision and plans we showed them, that they would become a reality,” remembers Perlitz.
Perlitz put the names of those first 31, faith-filled couples on heart-shaped rocks that adorn the venue’s concrete sidewalk. Now, every couple who gets married at Park 31 gets their name put on a heart rock. To date, the venue has hosted 167 weddings and has (at least) ten “Park 31” babies.
“This is a family. We’re going to take care of you like family,” said Perlitz.
Perlitz has plans for hosting different events, such as a marketplace with boutique vendors, and recently hosted a “COVID Couples” party, where her clients whose wedding plans were altered gathered to let off some steam.
Perlitz said to her clients, “Just the fact that you’re here…you persevered, says a lot. [Like marriage] It’s not all easy; you’ve got to work together.”
Owner, Cranberry’s Antiques
Heidi Savory moved to Blanco in 2005 and was hired by her neighbors to work at their store, called Cranberry’s Antiques. Savory quickly settled into a role managing the store for the ailing owners, and after their passing, the couple’s daughter offered the business to Savory.
But life wasn’t always easy for Savory. “I came from a difficult childhood, working really hard, with three jobs and raising my daughter by myself,” said Savory.
“But, now, being a proud woman business owner is the American Dream, and I’m so honored to have that,” said Savory.
Savory must be in the right business because her family swears that she has a knack for finding antiques. Once, when this avid gardener was digging in a flower bed in San Antonio, she found a very heavy, 1700s-era cannonball that she keeps in the store.
“When kids come into the store, I take them over to look at it. History is something that we all learn from. It should be learned, and we should know where we come from,” said Savory.
After 15 years in Blanco, Savory is a fixture in the community. The local churches sell their goods (rent-free) in her store, and Savory helps price the items, assuring that the churches make a profit, and the community is benefited.
Savory loves Christmas in the Hill Country, as well as the wildflowers in the Spring, but the people, she says, are the best part of the Hill Country.
“What drives Blanco is that it has a unique set of people who are as friendly as can be,” said Savory.