Historic Texas building sees renaissance

“The Dienger building is to Boerne what the Alamo is to San Antonio,” asserts Raymond Lunsford, owner of the newly established Dienger Trading Company. Lunsford and his wife, Lisa, have consolidated their Main Street businesses next to Boerne’s downtown plaza.

“We want to be a part of the community,” Lunsford said about their decade of commercial ventures along Boerne’s Main Street including three restaurants and two clothing stores.

A year ago, the Lunsfords acquired one of Boerne’s first two-story stone structures. Joseph and Ida Dienger built it in 1885 to house their “staple and fancy” grocery store downstairs, their five children upstairs. A full subterranean basement kept Dienger’s moose and deer antler collection.

Historian Garland Perry called the building a “trend-setter” and “the envy of everybody in town” at its 1984 dedication to the National Registry of Historic Places. According to Perry, seven other “live above, work below” structures were built along Main Street in the twenty-five years following the Dienger’s construction.

Joe Dienger bought 1.18 acres at the northwest corner of Main and Blanco in 1884 for $900. He financed $1,300 worth of building materials through a San Antonio lumber company. The end result was a structure with both Victorian and German influences.

In 1900, Dienger added a north extension for a men’s and women’s clothing store run by his sisters, Lina and Louise. Members of the Dienger family operated the grocery and clothing businesses until the early 1940s.

This history, and a desire to honor the Boerne community, inspired the contemporary Dienger Trading Company.

With a bakery/restaurant, Lunsford pays tribute to Joe’s grocery, while a home goods and clothing/accessory store hearkens back to his sisters’ shop. A bookshop recognizes the building’s use as a public library from 1991 – 2011, and an event venue in the former living quarters will facilitate fresh family memories.

“People who grew up in Boerne tell me every day, ‘I never dreamed this building could be this way. Thank you so much,’” Lunsford said. “It really means a lot and I’m very proud of what it has become.”

Branding guru Michelle Ernst serves as the “The Dienger’s” general manager and chief buyer.

“Knowing the Lunsfords’ love of the community, it was a no-brainer to incorporate the history of the building into our branding,” Ernst remarked. “We‘re not here to take business from anyone else. We’re here to be added value. We try to buy lines that no one else has.”

Ernst continues, “With the demographic changes in Boerne, many new establishments aren’t geared to an older demographic. The older generation wonders, ‘Where is my Boerne going?’ That’s why we want to offer something for everyone.

“We know we’re taking a risk by not marketing to just one demographic, but we think this building is special enough to make it work,” Ernst projects.

Lunsford believes the company’s uniqueness will bring ample business.

“Between the restaurant – people love to eat-, the ladies and men’s goods, the home goods, the venue with the balcony overlooking Main Street – it’s different. People tell us this is the kind of store you’d see in New York or Martha’s Vineyard or San Francisco.”

After experiencing The Dienger’s renaissance firsthand, putting government or private offices in the structure would be like putting the DMV in the Alamo.

Follow Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

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