In 1845, Julius Voelcker boarded a ship from Germany en route to Galveston, Texas. It took him three months to cross the sea. Once he arrived on land, he had another month's journey by foot to reach the newly settled german town of New Braunfels.
The town was so new, in fact, that Voelcker was the 9th member in the First Protestant Church registry. He was awarded a half-acre plot of land in town in which to start his new life. He chose the area that is now the parking lot of that very same church – Lot 59.
Fast forward 167 years. The building located behind Huisache Grill on Cross Street was on its way to becoming a bakery, that is, until Kat Kyle Balmos stepped in and took over the lease. It became Junkology, a store she partnered in for a short period of time. But now, Balmos has championed a new boutique in its place, this time on her own, and has aptly named it in honor of her family's deep New Braunfels roots. Have you been paying attention? That's right - we're talking about Lot 59.
Before Julius Voelker's incredible journey to New Braunfels, he studied pharmacology at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Once here, he would open up Voelker Pharmacy in what is now Red Stag in downtown New Braunfels. Voelker's descendants would go on to open Peerless Pharmacy (currently Dancing Pony Boutique), including Esther May Burt, grandmother of Kat Kyle Balmos, who was one of the first female retailers in New Braunfels. She owned the Smart Shop, a retail clothing store located in the old Schmidt Hotel, near what now houses the two coffee shops on Main Plaza.
To say that Kat was destined to open up a shop of her own in Downtown New Braunfels would be an understatement. The entrepreneurial spirit runs in the family it would seem. But Kat's career path is an interesting one. After high school, in the 80s, Kat left for college in Sherman, Texas, and after college she stuck around Dallas taking various retail jobs. She landed at J. Crew and began to impress. Eventually, she found herself recruited by corporate to open the J. Crew at the Galleria in Houston in 1992. Her reputation preceded itself when Abercrombie and Fitch swiped her away to run their store in The Woodlands, Texas. In only six short months, she was promoted from managing her $1 million grossing store, to the top $10 million grossing store at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Kat wouldn't stop climbing the retail corporate ladder there. She was promoted to District Manager of the Washington D.C. / Maryland region. Then, Chicago. Then, on to overseeing all of the Abercrombie and Fitch chains in Texas, and ultimately to Director of Recruiting – which saw Kat aboard five flights a week to all the major universities throughout the country - recruiting positions from designers to accountants to models. Kat spent hours with Mike Jeffries, owner of Abercrombie and Fitch, where she soaked up his extensive product and branding knowledge. And, no one can deny the success of A&F in the 90s.
Kat's path is a storied one. And like the name she has bestowed upon her shop, the items that fill her space have their own stories to tell. Lot 59 is eclectic vintage decor, art, one-of-a-kind pieces, clothing, salvage items, and much, much more. It's an exciting mixture of fresh, authentic, soulful, punk, and inspiring elements. Kat's years of retail development show in her dominance of display, and she approaches her work with museum-like curation.
That's the beauty of it all – it's a social science that Kat is owning from all angles. From her lineage, to her rise in the ranks of the retail industry, Kat returned like the prodigal daughter to where it all began, literally. Her U.S. family lineage precisely begins with Julius Voelker making that three month journey, a journey to a land of opportunity. A journey to a town called New Braunfels. Where opportunity still exists today. Julius Voelker was given Lot 59 when he arrived here. It was his to make a new life with. Now, Kat Kyle Balmos has given us our Lot 59. A place where we can pick up something with a past to create something new. Go there.
343 Cross St., New Braunfels, Texas 78130