“I think it’s important to have locally-owned businesses downtown because the owners live and work and play in the neighborhood,” explains Larry Rosenberger, owner of of Kilwins San Antonio. Larry is a downtown resident and is very involved with downtown facets like Hemisfair’s Super Saturdays and Centro San Antonio’s Homeless Outreach Program.
In fact, all proceeds from sales of the 2019 Kilwins Fiesta Medal will go to the Centro Homeless Outreach Program. For Larry, that’s why it’s important to have locally-owned businesses downtown. Local business owners want to be a part of solutions for homelessness. They are also interested in making parks great places to visit and ensuring cleanliness and hospitality in the urban core.
“Our opportunity is to bring our faith, our interest in the community, and our work together,” Larry explains. Staff at Kilwins have access to a prayer room, small library/study area, and even laundry facilities. On top of this, Kilwins makes scholarships available to the staff through the San Antonio Area Foundation relating to business, culinary arts, theatre, and seminary.
Kilwins team members prepare treats in an open kitchen. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“It’s great to bring joy with something as simple as confections,” says Christian Ortiz, who has been a Kilwins team member since December.
“[Kilwins] has a great ambiance to it,” adds Nicole Young, who has been a team member since opening, “There’s always music playing, we’re always dancing, and Mr. Larry’s always making a joke and clapping his hands.”
“Because we’re so encouraging with each other,” says Donavan Villareal, who has been a Kilwins team member since opening, “we’ve been able to grow in all areas of expertise.” Donavan, for example, has become skilled in the process of making fudge. The kitchen is open air and visible to guests entering the store. “Not only are you cooking,” he explains, “but you’re putting on a show for guests.”
Kilwins team member Donavan Villareal prepares to restock a display. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
When it comes to the guests, Larry emphasizes that the philosophy of Kilwins is “to treat people the way we would like to be treated.” This is visible in many small actions. Staff offer fudge samples to guests at the door. When taking advantage of buy two get one free, it’s the heaviest piece of fudge that’s free. For Larry, it is about a responsibility to support members of his community.
“When you come in, all your senses should come to life,” says Larry, “You should smell the aromas of us making a fresh homemade waffle cone, you should hear us cooking our hand-crafted fudge in the kettle, see us paddling it on the table, and then of course taste samples.”
Kilwins San Antonio Owner Larry Rosenberger poses for a portrait in the open kitchen. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
Owning and operating a Kilwins had been a dream for Larry and his wife, Diana, ever since they first visited the location in Blowing Rock, North Carolina with their daughters and son. After working in the banking industry for many years, Larry was ready to realize that dream. In 2017, the Kilwins family told him they were ready to expand to Texas. Larry would lead the franchise in Downtown San Antonio.
Starting in January of 2018, they began renovating a space in Alamo Plaza. Larry says that it was important to be thoughtful with the design, so that it fit in with the historic backdrop, while also bringing in something fresh. They opened their doors in September of 2018.
Through Kilwins, Larry sincerely wants to have an impact on the community he serves. He puts it simply: “How do we help someone take a bad day and make it better, or take a good day and make it great.”