“San Antonio has a textile DNA- a manufacturing DNA,” says Mario Guajardo, the soft-spoken yet passionate force behind Richter Goods, “but it creates global products. Products for everybody.” We felt the mystique of his headquarters almost as soon as he welcomed us in. The space was adorned with artsy black and white photographs, sewing machines from the first part of the last century, chaise lounge and reading chairs, and bowls filled with trinkets and buttons. “Mario’s inner mission in life is to orchestrate relationships, you know?” said Chuck Holdridge, a barber and tenant at Broadway News (We’ll talk more about that later.) If his workspace suggested anything, it was that Mario must be as proficient at bringing ideas together as he is people.
Mario Gaujardo poses for a photo at Richter Goods. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Born and educated in Mexico, Mario had many sources of inspiration in his youth that would contribute to his love of fashion. According to him, his father walked into the kitchen every morning looking “immaculate” in his suit, his appearance being a sign of respect for those he was meeting. “He was a man of great compassion, kindness, and attention to detail-and those characteristics were a big influence on me,” reflects Gaujardo. His family offered other opportunities for creative growth as well. “As a family, we traveled very often, exploring different cultures, where I was encouraged to engage, understand, and explore.”
Bowls filled with trinkets and buttons on a garment table at Richter Goods. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Gaujardo came to San Antonio, after having earned a business degree, near the turn of the millennium. For him, the city possessed something special, “Companies like Levi used to manufacture in San Antonio. So there is an incredible amount of talent.” He continued with an assessment of downtown’s significance: “It’s important to understand that in every metro market downtown has a big presence and I think that we need to understand that we have a beautiful downtown that has not been used to its potential.”
“We truly have the most beautiful downtown in Texas."
As for what made downtown beautiful, Mario pointed to the historical nature of the area. “We truly have the most beautiful downtown in Texas. It has many buildings from the 30s and it really resembles a lot of the northeast in terms of feel. We might not have the towers but we have gorgeous architecture, the Southwestern Bell building for instance.” It wasn’t only the buildings that caught Mario’s interest, but the people as well. “The concentration of the most interesting people is downtown. The most progressive and creative class is in downtown. There wasn’t a living community before, but there’s a living community today. [Downtown] went from dull to thriving. It started with people wanting to hangout downtown, people staying downtown, and people exploring downtown with that intention. That has drastically changed things. The actual population, versus tourists, are living locally.”
The Traveler Barbershop sets up in front of Richter Goods. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“It gives you responsibility for creating products that not only work locally but have a more global impact.”
When visiting Broadway News, the building housing Richter Goods, it’s impossible to overlook the trailers and shipping containers in the parking lot. Upon inspection, what appeared to be an encampment reveals itself as a makeshift marketplace complete with coffee shop, clothiers, and even a barbershop. Mario, through “orchestrating relationships” has built a diverse community of his own. That diversity is one of the things he admires most about the city. He cites the military “bringing in units from all over the world,” as well as the service industry as contributing factors to San Antonio’s diversity. “It gives you responsibility for creating products that not only work locally but have a more global impact.” He concludes, “It has to be a product that has a more well-rounded presence per se. And it has definitely had an impact in terms of the way we create what we do.” This sentiment summed up a lot of our conversation; namely, a spirit and diversity that makes San Antonio accessible to anyone.
All garments are handmade at Richter Goods. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Looking toward the future, Richter Goods seemed to be diversifying even within its own product line. “Right now we are working on healthcare apparel. To give you an example we are producing three-thousand units with a private label. We have to deliver those in thirty days.” According to Mario, nurses, doctors, and other physicians will use the scrubs. Based on numbers from other healthcare apparel manufacturers, Mario seems confident in the new venture. “So if I do succeed in doing something like that- that’s a lot of jobs. And it’s totally sustainable. So healthcare apparel is a big part of our expansion.”
Mario Gaujardo arranges a garment for processing with Maria Reyes, 58, at Richter Goods. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
As we came to the last question, the tailors at Richter Goods were trying to pull Mario away to attend to other matters. The fact that they so strongly felt his absence, after only ten minutes, was evidence of the growth and success of Guajardo’s venture. Luckily, He was able to offer his final opinion on whether or not downtown San Antonio could become the global contributor he described: “Absolutely. It’s not so much about marketing downtown but marketing products that come from downtown.” If Mario’s company is at all representative of entrepreneurship in San Antonio, it won’t be a tough sell.