Owner of Gruene Outfitters & The Pomegranate
Getting People Hooked on the Outdoors
By Jenny Jurica
Photography by Nina Padilla
In 2000, when Tiffany Yeates, a college student at Texas State University, headed to historic, tourism driven Gruene, Texas with her college roommates to find part-time jobs, she certainly never expected to land her dream job, nor did she expect that she’d settle here for the long-haul. Yeates’ college friends gravitated toward wait staff positions at the perennially popular historic Gruene restaurant, The Gristmill, but Yeates, a lifelong fisherman, headed directly for the local fly fishing store, Gruene Outfitters, to apply for a retail position. Yeates got the job at Gruene Outfiitters and quickly became the right-hand-wo(man) to the store’s owner, who entrusted her with all of the inner workings of the business. Soon, Yeates found herself working 40 hours a week while attending college.
When the former owner of Gruene Outfitters decided to retire in 2006, Yeates, who was then a 26-year-old college graduate, decided to purchase the business.
“The president of a local bank was a customer, and he knew I could do it, so with a handshake, he gave me the loan to buy the store. It was one of those things where I feel like God had a plan and everything worked out,” remembers Yeates.
Gruene Outfitters is known for being “packed to the gills” (pun intended) with fishing equipment to help both tourists and locals experience some of the best fly fishing in the state at the Guadalupe River (located just a stone’s throw from the store). But Gruene Outfitters also boasts an impressive and stylish selection of clothing and accessories- many brands not available in nearby stores. Gruene Outfitters has a large following among locals and visitors alike, but Yeates wanted a way to bring more merchandise in.
Gruene is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and thus, has staunch rules about building and adding onto the existing structures, so Yeates felt a litte boxed in. Then, a neighboring property suddenly became available, so Yeates snagged it and remodeled the inside. This building is now the The Pomegranate, a bright and airy boutique-style shop, where Yeates has housed all of the women’s and children’s merchandise for the past four years, leaving Gruene Outfitters to the men’s clothing and outdoor gear.
The name, The Pomegranate, came to Yeates rather easily. In front of the store is a huge, eye-catching ornamental pomegranate tree that delights everyone with its tremendous blooms every spring. In fact, the pomegranate tree was a fixture in Gruene when the current owners of the district purchased the town in 1975, and no one is quite sure how old it is or how it got there. If that pomegranate tree could talk….
This year, Gruene Outfitters is celebrating its 32nd year in business, and Yeates largely attributes the success of the store to her staff.
“In a little store like this, the only way we can compete is through customer service because there’s so much out there in the way of online stores. We wouldn’t be here without our staff ,” said Yeates.
When Yeates isn’t roving between the two stores, she and her family try to spend as much time outside as possible– practicing what she preaches in her outdoor living stores. She has also been inspired by how the COVID crisis has renewed many people’s appreciation for the outdoors.
“This year, we’ve sold more fly fishing rod and reel combinations than we ever have,” explained Yeates.
“People who haven’t taken the time to be outside much did it this year. People are coming in and showing us what they caught and sharing their river stories.”
“It’s rewarding to hear people say, ‘This year, I’ve learned that I love the outdoors,’” she remarked.
Prior to COVID, Yeates had aspirations of building more of an online presence for her stores, but the pandemic has shown her that there is more value in the daily, face-to-face interactions with her customers–an aspect of retail that is lost in a predominantly online environment.
“We know our customers by name. People come into our stores and say, ‘There’s such a good vibe in here, can I just hang out?’ and it’s hard to duplicate that online,” said Yeates.
Currently, Yeates is active in community outreach through Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited’s Youth Trout Camp, Casting for Recovery, which provides healing outdoor retreats for women living with breast cancer, and the Wounded Warrior Project, which hosts fishing trips for those veterans wounded in the line of duty. She is enthusiastic about sharing her passion for the outdoors and the Texas Hill Country with others.
“Just being able to get away from the city, get on the rivers, and get outside at night…see the sky and stars, all of that is what I love to share about the Hill Country,” remarked Yeates.
Gruene Outfitters- 1629 Hunter Rd, New Braunfels, TX 78130
The Pomegranate- 1613 Hunter Rd, New Braunfels, TX 78130
This story was originally published in the January/February Issue of San Antonio Woman magazine and sawoman.com. View here: https://sawoman.com/2021/03/hill-country-woman-tiffany-yeates/