By Jessica Mattsson
If you grew up in San Antonio, there is a good chance you knew all about the ButterKrust Bakery on Broadway. You probably passed it countless times in the family automobile, windows rolled down to allow the aroma of fresh-baked bread to waft inside. Maybe your introduction came during a school field trip when bakery employees would give visiting students a ruler, pencil, and a warm, flaky piece of bread.
In 1912, William Louis Richter purchased the existing ButterKrust franchise and saw it flourish with the use of advanced, assembly line machinery at the new Broadway location. The ButterKrust Bakery thrived for years, producing hundreds of thousands of bread loaves a day until 1994, when Flowers Industries bought out the company. In 1997, grain production ceased on Broadway, but Richter’s name was not forgotten. The Richter Math-Engineering Center, built in 1968 at San Antonio’s St. Mary’s University, was named for the William L. Richter family, which funded its construction. At least four generations of Richters have attended the school.
The original ButterKrust building remained as well, but had started to fade into mere memory. San Antonio natives wondered what would become of the beloved bakery on Broadway. There was talk of SAWS establishing its new headquarters there along the San Antonio River, but the water utility instead relocated to the former Valero headquarters on U.S. 281 and Mulberry. In 2005, C.H. Guenther & Son, Inc., one of the oldest family owned companies in the United States, stepped in and acquired the old bread bakery and announced plans to redevelop the building into its new headquarters. The Pearl also was beginning to come back, thanks to Silver Ventures, but no one saw what Broadway would become by 2012 when C.H. Guenther moved into its newly opened headquarters.
The company, best known as Pioneer Flour Mills, sees the move as the latest chapter in a rich narrative that goes back to the mid-19th century. The company was founded in 1851 in Fredericksburg by Carl Hilmar Guenther, who later relocated to San Antonio. The mill, an iconic landmark in the King William district was once the tallest structure in the city. Pioneer, however, is a very different company today with operations across the United States and in Europe, and a diverse line of food products distributed internationally.
C.H. Guenther chose R.L. Worth & Associates to lead the “Bakery on Broadway” redevelopment project. The goal was to maintain the original integrity and history of the ButterKrust building while creating a brand new look for C.H. Guenther & Son, Inc.
The redevelopment represents the company’s growth and an investment in its employees. C.H. Guenther & Son has come a long way from the faded yellow walls at its original location. The new space offers amenities such as larger work stations and a state-of-the-art test kitchen. Inside the communal break room, employees can eat, relax, and watch (and second guess) golfers hacking away at neighboring Brackenridge Golf Course. An exercise facility offers a place to work out right on site, no excuses. More than anything, the new space communicates pride.
The Midtown/River North neighborhood is growing and evolving. Apartments and condominiums are rising all along Broadway, and the historic Pearl Brewery, located minutes away, hosts a popular farmers’ market every Saturday, and a growing number of places to eat, drink and commune. The Pearl is now home to the Culinary Institute of America, teeming with future leaders of innovation in food service. C.H. Guenther & Son stands right in the middle of it all.
So next time you are in the bustling Pearl District, drop by C.H. Guenther & Son’s new headquarters and see the beautiful Bakery on Broadway for yourself – truly history in the baking.
Jessica Mattsson works for C.H. Guenther & Son, Inc. Follow her on Twitter @BenchmarkBrand. You can also read her blog, Benchmark Brands, which recognizes forward-thinking companies differentiating their brand via innovative strategies.