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Time for a little relaxation Barbara Brietzke looks forward to a break

Time for a little relaxation Barbara Brietzke looks forward to a break
PASCALLE BIPPERT Oak Hills Center owner Barbara Brietzke enjoys a little relaxation. She’s sold her business and is looking forward to retirement.

Barbara Brietzke is about to close one chapter of her life, to embrace a new one. The owner and manager of the Oak Hills Center convenience store on U.S. 87 is looking forward to retirement.

Born Barbara Markgraf, she has lived in the La Vernia area all her life, growing up in New Berlin, where she attended the New Berlin school until the 10th grade.

At 17, she married her childhood friend and sweetheart, Billy Brietzke. They were married 45 years; he passed away in 2006. She is the mother of three Allen Brietzke, JoAnn McLean, and Diane Brietzke and has six grandkids and three great-grandchildren.

Barbara’s first job was at United Cottons in Seguin, working the serger and making aprons, towels, and shop towels. Later, she worked at Motorola as a panel inspector for radios. She then worked at Baumann’s grocery store for many years as a cashier.

Family business

In 1978, she and Billy bought Carter’s Center, a “cooler” store, just south of La Vernia on U.S. 87. They renamed it Oak Hills Center. At the time, it was very small just a cooler for beer and soda.

They had no prior business experience in running a store, but relied on Barbara’s cashiering experience at Baumann’s. Barbara managed the store, while Billy worked for CPS.

Her family didn’t understand why they bought it, but Billy hoped it would provide a retirement for them in their older years.

Since it was the only store between La Vernia and Stockdale at the time, folks from Sutherland Springs and the surrounding area came there regularly.

Her daughters also helped her a lot throughout the years at the store. They came and worked after school and after they graduated.

Growing pains

Following requests from their customers for more grocery items, they expanded the store in 1996 to accommodate demand. They also updated the gas pumps and added a canopy.

The work included installing burglar bars because the store had endured several break-ins; the thieves made off with beer and cigarettes.

One night when Barbara was alone and closing the store, she was walking to her car and noticed a shadowy figure around the corner. A man approached her to rob her; in her fright, she dropped the money bag.

“When I bent over to pick it up, I acted like I had a gun in my hand,” she recalled. “That scared the guy enough that he ran off!”

Barbara is certainly a brave woman.

The Texas lottery also brought some excitement to her business. People from miles around came to buy lottery tickets and two lucky customers won large prizes a $175,000 mega-millions prize and a $50,000 scratch-off.

“I appreciate all my customers for all the business you have given us throughout the years,” Barbara said. “I would like to thank my employees who worked so hard for me for all those years.”

She’s sold the store to a new owner, but is still managing it until everything is finalized. Then the new owners will be in charge.

“I hope that I can stay well for the rest of my life,” she said, anticipating retirement and time to enjoy her family.

As a longtime member of the La Vernia business community, Barbara would like to see a few changes in town.

“A theater and a motel would be nice,” she said. “There’s no place for relatives to stay if they come in for a wedding or a visit.”

What’s next for this busy woman?

A little rest, relaxation, catching up on household chores, and taking care of her cattle on her land in New Berlin. Maybe some travel, she said.

Be sure to stop by Oak Hills Center and tell her you’ll miss her.

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