My Idea of San Antonio

Iconic San Antonio shop owners weigh in on what the city means to them

Iconic San Antonio shop owners weigh in on what the city means to them

News_San Antonio_River Walk
San Antonio shop owners share what Alamo City means to them.  Courtesy photo
San Angel Folk Art Gallery San Antonio shop
San Angel Folk Art Gallery displays self-taught, folk, visionary, outsider, marginal, and contemporary artwork. Photo courtesy of San Angel Folk Art Gallery
La Panaderia San Antonio pan dulce coffee
Bread and pastries are served hot and fresh at La Panadería. La Panadería/Facebook
Sexology Institue and Boutique owner Melissa Jones
The Sexology Institute is part sex shop, part education center. Photo courtesy of Sexology Institue and Boutique
Fruteria Cano San Antonio fruit shop mango
Frutería Cano offers a variety of fresh fruit, blended drinks, and desserts. Fruteria Cano San Antonio/Facebook
Penner's Inc San Antonio men's store guayaberas
Penner's has been selling guayaberas to San Antonians for four generations. Penner's Inc/Facebook
News_San Antonio_River Walk
San Angel Folk Art Gallery San Antonio shop
La Panaderia San Antonio pan dulce coffee
Sexology Institue and Boutique owner Melissa Jones
Fruteria Cano San Antonio fruit shop mango
Penner's Inc San Antonio men's store guayaberas

What's your idea of San Antonio? We caught up with five San Antonio shopkeepers from different backgrounds to find out what the city means to them. Whether discussing the products they sell, building a business, or the future of the city, they all have their own idea about the city's significance and what makes it special.

Frutería Cano
Founded in Dallas about 20 years ago, Frutería Cano has expanded to eight stores across Dallas and Forth Worth and opened at Historic Market Square in San Antonio two years ago. Located on the corner of Produce Row, it has enjoyed plenty of business ever since, whether hosting large families, smaller groups, or individuals.

Frutería Cano offers guests a variety of fresh fruit, blended drinks, and desserts, from the bestselling mangonada to liquados, fruit cocktails and milkshakes. Customers can order fresh, sliced fruit with whipped cream and yogurt, as well.

Ana Cano said her family learned about the opportunity to open a store at Market Square when she moved to San Antonio with her fiancé. "We have participated in the Fiesta parade, and we wanted to make it our home," she said.

Cano said San Antonio is a very different culture than Dallas. "Here, we're talking first, second, third, fourth, and fifth generations with a very American-Hispanic heritage base," she said "People dance in the street here, especially the first week of Fiesta, which is very different from what I’m used to in Dallas."

La Panadería
José and David Cáceres opened La Panadería at the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market in San Antonio in September 2013. After selling out of bread every Sunday for six months, the brothers opened their new store on Broadway Street. Guests at La Panadería will find an assortment of fresh bread and pastries, from pan dulce and pan artesano to the bestselling tequila almond croissant.

"San Antonio is growing so fast and changing so fast, I think it's the right momentum for a brand like ours to become part of the new face of San Antonio," José said. "We hope to be adopted by the city and be part of the culture."

He described their brand as a blend of cultures. "Our brand is local, despite that we are from Mexico City," José said. "We take our Mexican pastries to a different level to offer the best experience to our guests."

The brothers have successfully expanded their brand and reached a wider audience and demographic at the Broadway location, he said. While La Panadería is not the traditional panadería that customers might be used to in San Antonio, the brothers built it to be authentic, José said.

"We get crowds every day for lunch, and we get regulars from the Westside, Eastside, from all over," he said. "Our main goal is to make everyone happy. We have 250,000 guests per year at this location, and if I can get a smile out of every guest we have here, our business will blossom, and we will make a huge impact in our community. La Panadería is for everybody, and that's very exciting."

La Panadería will open a new store and central bakery in downtown San Antonio on Houston and Navarro streets in late December or early January.

Penner's, Inc.
Penner's men's store on West Commerce Street is a San Antonio institution, drawing locals and tourists for the last hundred years by offering the world’s largest selection of traditional, contemporary, and classic guayaberas. The guayaberas, made in the Yucatan, Panama, and Colombia, are made exclusively and shipped all over the world.

"We're lucky — we've got customers we've been shipping to for 80 years, and now we're into the next generation," said Max Penner, the fourth generation to run the family business with his brother Mitchell; his uncle Matthew; and his father, Mark. 

The store sells guayaberas to customers for weddings or special occasions, along with everyday wear. Customers will get a quality product that’s priced to sell, from the store's top seller, the presidente, a guayabera sporting one pocket and pleats running down the front and back, to Irish linen guayaberas, big and tall sizes, hats, accessories, and ladies' wear.

"Customers will find unique goods in our store that they won't find elsewhere," he said. "We also carry unusual brands and offer free tailoring." The free tailoring service, offering a bonus to customers through seven full-time tailors and same-day alterations, is a tradition dating back to day one, he said.

Penner said it's exciting to see the changes happening in San Antonio after growing up in the city.

"They’re really putting a lot of money into downtown, trying to bring more tourists and residents to downtown with apartments, hotels, retail, and San Pedro Creek," he said. "We're excited for everything that's happening, not only for the benefit of our business, but the entire city. It's going to be fantastic with the Frost Tower coming up, and the next four to five years are going to transform our city."

San Angel Folk Art Gallery
Richard Henry "Hank" Lee opened San Angel Folk Art Gallery in 1989 after a decade spent traveling throughout Mexico and Latin America meeting folk artists and collecting their work.

While the King William neighborhood and greater San Antonio has changed quite a bit since the late 1980s, Lee has kept the tradition of selling work by self-taught folk artists. Fashioned after a Victorian curiosity shop and located at the Blue Star Arts Complex, San Angel Folk Art offers self-taught, folk, visionary, outsider, marginal, and contemporary artwork, plus much more.

Everything in the store is handmade by people living in different places and priced by artists based on where they live, so whether guests are looking for hand-painted champagne flutes, angels, nichos, or beyond, the store offers a little of everything. "It's really a gamut of the genre," Lee said.

San Angel Folk Art Gallery has evolved with the changing political and cultural times, selling ethnographic Mexican earrings and guayaberas to artwork by Asian women who have been displaced in their own communities, he noted.

"As the owner of the shop, it's doing something for your employment as a labor of love," Lee said. "We've lost so many artists over the years from old age, so it's important for us to keep on the road and look for new stuff."

Lee, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in marine sciences from Texas A&M University and moved to Los Angeles, took advice from his father to do something with the art he began collecting when traveling to Mexico.

"The environment becomes the work I'm doing," he said. "I've been to so many wonderful [galleries] around the country, but the reality hits that it's so much harder than people really thought. You've got to be really focused and have to want to do it, because you'll be sacrificing your time, your weekends, and your own finances."

Lee said he's grateful for all the positive attention he's received at the gallery and looks forward to continuing the tradition.

Sexology Institute and Boutique
The Sexology Institute gets all kinds of visitors, from pedestrians who are curious about what’s inside to referrals from therapists or physicians and clients from out of state. "Our staff is well-trained to help patrons find what works for them, even if it's something we don’t carry," said Melissa Jones, adding that customers enjoy the wide array of pre-selected items and have described it as "haute couture."

The store opened on South Presa Street in 2014, but it's much more than a physical location. It's an education center where a trained staff of concierges, teachers, administrators, and artisans engage in community outreach and public speaking, all with the goal of bringing better awareness about sexuality issues to San Antonio.

Jones, who has lived in San Antonio for 20 years and has been married for 25 years, founded her practice at the San Antonio Medical Center in 2010 to help clients with their sexuality goals and concerns. "I love what I do, and I'm always looking for avenues where I can help others," Jones said. "We certainly love teaching groups, whether they be bridal showers, bachelorette parties, or other groups and organizations who approach us for tailored education."

"It's a wonderful organization, staffed almost exclusively by women, and we all have a passion for teaching," she said. "We promote all healthy aspects of sexuality without regard to gender or orientation."

Jones said she's come to discover tremendous support from public and private civic leaders.

"We always wanted to remain cognizant of community standards while not holding back on providing complete and honest education," she said. "Our visitors and students continually compliment us on what we've created and are excited to see what's next for us," she said. 

The Sexology Institute is planning a huge expansion to offer online education in 2017, and its staff will be traveling and taking the mission to all corners of the country. The institute will also ramp up professional education training programs to offer certification in a variety of sexological fields, Jones said.