By Angela Rabke :: Photography courtesy of Snapchic Photography
Hill Country historians know that, when it comes to historic buildings, the people of Boerne may venerate the beloved Dienger Building even more than folks in San Antonio love the Alamo. Originally constructed in 1884, the building is the centerpiece for downtown Main Street, and has served the community in many capacities in the 130 years that have followed. Today, the building is beautifully restored and operates in much the same capacity for which it was originally intended.
Truth be told, when current owner Raymond Lunsford began the process of purchasing the Dienger, he had no idea of the building’s treasured history. Nor did he have a specific plan to embark on the extensive restoration to carefully restore the building to its former glory. Raymond and his wife Lisa were simply looking to move their Boerne businesses, Main Street Café, DoughRay&Me Bakery and Wear It’s At, closer to the downtown area so that they could better serve tourists to the area. After their plans to purchase another building fell through, their realtor encouraged them to look at the Dienger, and they were able to purchase it. “We really had no idea that the building was such a big deal,” Lunsford shares. “And we had no idea that it could be like this again.” Indeed, the building was a shell when they purchased it. Some might call it serendipity, but Raymond — a faithful Christian — will tell you that God had a special plan for the building. “A young lady walked into our café inquiring about office space about two weeks after we closed on the Dienger,” says Raymond. “On a whim, I showed her the building. She did not say much at all.” Little did he know that the woman, Michelle Ernst, had been driving past the Dienger on trips to Boerne for seven years, dreaming up plans for the old building that stretched beyond the Lunsford family’s wildest dreams. When she articulated everything that she hoped the building could be, Lunsford immediately brought her on board, trusting her vision for restoring the building exactly as Joseph Dienger intended back in 1884. It wasn’t perfectly smooth sailing, laughs Raymond. “There were times when the contractor didn’t understand what the final product would look like, or my wife would feel concern about the expenses or such an extensive remodel. It’s very clear now, though, that we were right to trust Michelle, who now serves as our General Manager.”
The entire building has been meticulously restored. Every effort was made to salvage existing materials, and new materials blend seamlessly to create a space that feels both historic and modern. There is a little bit of something for everyone here, and it would be completely reasonable to spend half a day or more enjoying the treasures the Dienger has to offer. The Bakery and Bistro is currently open for breakfast and lunch, and offers delicious options from a set menu that includes daily specials. Wine and tapas couple with live music on Friday and Saturday evenings, along with steaks, fish, pastas and salads as the kitchen experiments with dinner options.
After guests enjoy a delicious meal at the Bakery (pro tip: Try the coconut cream pie; it’s rumored to be the best in the world), they can feed their souls with a visit to the adjacent Book Store. The space is a nod to the building’s days as the Boerne Public Library. Offering a curated collection of best sellers and inspirational literature, it’s the perfect spot to grab something for yourself or a friend, or to hunker down with coffee and a pastry. After exploring the books, get ready to explore the trove of treasures in the boutique. The entire space takes one back to the well-curated department stores of yesteryear, with a fascinating array of merchandise to explore. Even though the space feels historic, the fashion vibe is decidedly current, with a focus on classic colors and meticulous craftsmanship. With everything from women and men’s wearables, to home décor, a children’s boutique and treasures and collectables, every object feels like a discovery — something you’d be unable to find elsewhere.
The future holds more thoughtful expansion of services. For those interested in further utilizing this architectural treasure, the former offices upstairs have been transformed into a light-filled, unique space for meetings or catered dinners, and a door has been added to give visitors access to the beautiful wraparound porch. There are plans for monthly pop-up dinners featuring rotating chefs and live music.
Rumor has it that the Dienger Building is haunted. If it is, the ghosts of the past are surely pleased to see their home carefully brought back to life — providing a new haunt for the people of Boerne and carrying history forward with all of the intentions that Mr. Dienger had back in 1884.