Looking Back: Mike and Nancy Gaffney

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From a Wise Man Sprang San Antonio Woman

By Meredith Kay

Photography by Suzanne Pack

Life is serendipity. Sometimes the most interesting opportunities can come out of places that you would least expect them to when you curiously walk through a door that opens while you are focused on another path.

This is what happened to Mike Gaffney. He was enjoying a 10-year career in banking, working as a Commercial Lender at Broadway Bank in the early 1990s, when he was approached by one of the bank’s clients, a graphic design company. He learned about computers, printing, and graphic design in short order.

In 1993, Gaffney had the opportunity to start PixelWorks Media, and in 1995 he moved his career into publishing with a bi-monthly new homes guide that highlighted new home builders throughout the San Antonio area. A second magazine was launched in Austin, and both publications were sold to Primedia Corp in 2000.

Gaffney had always kicked around the idea of starting a San Antonio city magazine, and when an auto dealer expressed an interest in reaching more women, the publishing lightbulb turned on. Studies showed that women influenced nearly 80% of household buying decisions in the U.S., and after consulting with his wife, Nancy, Mike decided to change the title from San Antonio Monthly to San Antonio Woman.

It was then that the stars aligned again, as Gaffney had recently met Beverly Purcell-Guerra when he was invited to publish the Medical Society magazine. When Gaffney learned about Beverly’s extensive publishing background with Vogue magazine and, more recently, with the San Antonio Express-News, he convinced her to join him as the first editor of San Antonio Woman, and their 12-year adventure together began. The timing was good as the city was growing into one of the largest metropolitan markets in the country.

“Men have a tendency to trumpet their own horns about their successes, but women quietly build careers and become the top in their field, running successful businesses while also balancing their family lives and other endeavors. I have had the extreme pleasure of meeting so many dynamic smart, and fun women throughout the years.”

They say that behind every great man is an amazing woman, and Gaffney’s publishing empire could not have been possible without the love, support, and ongoing strength of his wife, Nancy. The couple met as students at S.M.U. and will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary next March. For years, Nancy quietly handled the mechanics of the burgeoning publishing business, acting as the business administrator and corporate cheerleader.

Nancy says, “Working with Mike gave me an incredible opportunity to meet some wonderfully talented women in San Antonio, many of whom are now dear friends. I am proud to have been a part of the success of San Antonio Woman. It has been an honor to be a part of the longest-running magazine in San Antonio and a privilege to see that the torch has passed to very capable local hands.”

Gaffney also credits the magazine’s long-term success to a fantastic group of writers, photographers, and editors, including his own sister, Susan Thornton, who stepped down as the editor two years ago to pursue her exciting new role as a grandmother.

Gaffney recalls some of his favorite personalities and moments with San Antonio Woman fondly. “In the early days, we pulled all-nighters to get the magazine to press on time. Slowly, we were able to avoid those. The brainstorming sessions for creating new next issue were always challenging and fun.” He says that some of the most interesting women and their stories came equally from celebrities as well as high-achieving professional women like former Sheriff Susan Parmaleau, Singer Patsy Torres, Actress Cheryl Ladd, Dr. Lillian Chou, Commercial Realtor Deborah Bauer, Banker Suzanne Goudge, and Judge Sandee Bryan Marion, among many, many others.

The magazine actually “birthed” several other titles, including Denver Woman, San Antonio At Home, as well as San Antonio Man; the latter only lasted a couple of years. “No one was really interested in reading about guys,” laughs Gaffney, “and the advertisers continued to be more interested in supporting San Antonio Woman.”

Although Gaffney sold San Antonio Woman in 2020, he reflects on his career as the magazine celebrates its 20th anniversary, and he is proud of the impact this publication has made on the city. He and Nancy still call San Antonio home; however, they split their time with a home in Fort Worth to be with their son and daughter and five grandchildren.

Today the Gaffneys run almost 200 websites and are active in buying, selling, and brokering domain names across the country. Their daughter continues in the family business as the popular influencer, Fort Worth Woman.

Gaffney smiles when he says, “I loved sometimes being the only guy walking into an event filled with influential women that have shaped our city, and to know that our magazine had the chance to tell their stories and inspired other women to learn from them as well. In the end, we were successful because I was able to surround myself with smart women and listen to them.” As Gaffney sums it up, “I learned a lot about women that I did not know I didn’t know!”

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One Response

  1. Amazingly grounded and humble folks. Have show cased, influenced and mentored women from all walks. Left an amazing legacy for San Antonio. Their daughter doing the same in Fort Worth.

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