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Interview with New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce President, Nathan Manlove

Part of our series spotlighting the Langley and Banack New Braunfels office, includes interviewing members heavily involved in the New Braunfels community development and growth. David Pfeuffer interviewed Nathan Manlove, New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce president. You can listen to that episode here, or read an abbreviated version of it below.

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David Pfeuffer

Well as a native of New Braunfels I’m really excited to host this podcast and kick it off and see where it goes, so tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and how you found your way to our little hamlet.

 

Nathan Manlove

Sure. Well I’ve lived in New Braunfels for 20 years which you know I’m still what the locals would call an auslender. But you know, the short version of me arriving here was my wife and I were living in Austin and wanted to buy a house as fairly newly weds and we took a realtor with us around Austin and he showed us a few storage sheds that we could afford and we said well,  okay, so we’re not going to live in Austin. I looked at San Marcos and you know that was a college town and we were not that age, so there was this town called New Braunfels and I came down here and drove around and loved it. The first time I was here I drove up San Antonio street toward Main Plaza and I thought, “wow this is really great” and back then the houses were affordable. We bought one with the intention of saving up some money for a down payment and going back to Austin in about six months. It’s been twenty years and thank God that we did not go back up there because this is my home. I love it here.

 

David Pfeuffer

How does the growth that we’re experiencing affect you in both your role with the chamber and also your role with your advertising company?

Nathan Manlove

Well I mean on both fronts, David, I view it as an opportunity to be in a successful town. It’s a blessing on the chamber front. You know as chair of the board last year I got to go to ribbon cuttings and take kind of an inside look at the chamber operations and economic development and things like that. Having grown up in a town in North Texas that is not growing, if anything it’s shrinking year by year, there’s a market difference between the two places. So as it pertains to my business doing marketing, the chamber growth is a good thing. I can’t complain about it. There are challenges with it, but I’d certainly choose the challenges of growth over the challenges of non-growth or shrinking for a community. So yeah, you know as it pertains to my business, and I think it would be the same for any business in New Braunfels right now, as our community grows it’s an opportunity for those of us who are here and established to grow as well. So it’s a good thing.

 

David Pfeuffer

Sure the chamber here locally has been a real driving force in many areas and in creating many many things over the years. Do you see that continuing in the future?

Nathan Manlove

Yeah I do. I’ve been a member since I got here as chair of the board. I really got to see just how active the Chamber is and how much the employees and members there care for the community. So it’s a job for sure over there but it’s also a labor of love. They want the best for the community and so that helps other people buy into that mission. The Chamber, I tell you, they are smart and they’re mission minded. It’s going to stay strong and I view it on my part as a private business owner. They’re my voice on economic development and advocacy and with the City and with my peers. So I view that as an outlet of myself and an extension of my own business.

 

David Pfeuffer

Tell the listeners about The AMMO Group and what you all do and how you fit into the community here.

Nathan Manlove

Sure, The AMMO Group is a full service marketing agency I started back in 2001 the day before my wedding when I got laid off from my job. So that’s a story for a longer podcast, but that’s the short version of it. In sheer desperation I started a company and you know I have worked in agencies my whole life before that, so I kind of knew how I wanted to make it operate. As our town grows, I want my company to be, you know, full service and able to be the one who can do whatever anybody needs. So we’re kind of good at marketing stuff, coming up with differentiation and things like that, so that people can really stand out with their marketing.

 

David Pfeuffer

I know that a lot of the organizations and events that I’m involved in see you and your company helping them all the time. What percentage of your business would you say is local versus outside of the New Braunfels area?

Nathan Manlove

You know that’s an interesting question because when I first got here to New Braunfels in early 2002, the vast majority of our work was not here. I was working for Sprint and that’s who laid me off in 2001. Dot coms in technology were doing great then so I didn’t have a job, but when I was laid off so were a lot of my counterparts who all got jobs and were the ones that eventually hired my company and so that was a real blessing in disguise. So when I came here, we were coming here just to buy a house and I didn’t know anything about New Braunfels at that time. So as  time went on I got invested here and joined the chamber and started getting around and over time when you give to our town you get from your own town.

This is a very gracious community for people who really care about it. As the time has gone on, out of town businesses, as a percent, has done this (decrease) an in-town businesses have done that (increase). We’re probably like seventy five, eighty percent local here now which is awesome. I love it.

 

David Pfeuffer

So there’s still a decent percentage of work that you’re doing outside the community and so I guess my point is if somebody from San Antonio is watching this podcast and they’re looking for somebody in your area of expertise, there’s no reason they shouldn’t pick up the phone and call you or hit your website or something like that?

Nathan Manlove

Oh for sure. With the way the internet works we can do business anywhere. We work for Sprint which a lot of their stuff is in California or on the East Coast. It’s just a matter of doing what we’re doing here and you can see us face-to face and still meet. Technology has changed a lot of that, but to me I think it’s kind of indicative of our town as to how well it’s doing if we can all work here and be fine. If it was 100% here I would be fine, so it’s just nice to be in a town that’s growing and booming financially. 

 

David Pfeuffer

What are some of the challenges that you see for our area and how do those affect you in both your roles that we’re talking about today, your business along with the Chamber?

Nathan Manlove

Well I mean everybody will say growth. I don’t view growth as a challenge necessarily. I mean there are things that come with it, but to me it’s perspective. Having sat at the light at William Cannon and Mopac in Austin for about 5 rounds trying to get to work every morning, that to me is traffic. Here I used to not have to wait at all, or through 1 light cycle, maybe two.

To me traffic is not so bad here. But you know beyond that, I think to me something that I’m passionate about for our community is getting people who are new here to understand how special this place is and really embrace our culture. This place is awesome and you know when you’re a part of an organization as I am we would go to a school and ask the kids, “hey kids, how many of you have been to wurstfest?” and I would expect all of them but sometimes it’s half. So as our city and community grows, getting people to get plugged in is what leads to what is pretty special about our town.  It’s the ownership people have in it and you (David) are a good example of that. People are fiercely loyal to this town and take ownership in it and I think that if there’s any challenge, it’s the maintenance of our culture in the middle of growth.

 

David Pfeuffer

I think that historically our city officials and our county officials have all done a really good job in doing the best they can with the growth that’s going to come and the change that it’s going to bring.

Is there any kind of project that the chamber’s working on that is something big that you might want to talk about on our show today? 

Nathan Manlove

I think that there’s something that figures in what we’re talking about really. As you know as things grow, It becomes an identity thing to me. Okay, we’re growing, that’s a good thing, but what do we want to be? What do we want to do? How do we guide that growth to where we want it to be? I know that the chamber is working with the economic development foundation. The 4B Board in the city on economic development strategic plan to come up with ways to guide that. What are our best opportunities? That excites me. But when you have different groups working together man, what’s going to come out of that I couldn’t be more excited about. so that’s a pretty big deal to me. Now how that happens and when it comes together I think that’s going to be done in the spring sometime. In May that’ll get rolled out and I’m excited about it.

 

David Pfeuffer

We have a lot of festivals here as you know, and I think I know the answer, but what is your favorite festival that we have?

Nathan Manlove

Wurstfest.

 

David Pfeuffer

Ah, mine is Wurstfest as well. Have you ever been to Oktoberfest?

Nathan Manlove

Um, not in Germany. No, I have not. I know you have.

 

David Pfeuffer

Well interestingly I had never been there. I was a little worried about going there. I wound up going on a traveling Aggies trip that an Austrian gentleman leads to Oktoberfest and so I felt like that was a good way to go because you have somebody who’s a pro and whatnot. But I always assumed that wurstfest was probably a really poor knockoff of Oktoberfest and then when I got there I saw the grounds and how they did everything and I realized “wow wurstfest is really very authentic in many many ways” and I think some of the ways that we differ were even better. So you know it really gave me an even greater appreciation of Wurstfest and what it is and how it pulls off the magic that happens.

Here’s my follow-up question since Wurstfest is sort of the granddaddy of all of our festivals, what’s your next favorite festival?

Nathan Manlove

Second favorite. That’s a tough one. Some friends and I came up with the Hill Country Craft Beer Festival so that’s a pretty good one. I like craft beer and to go to a festival that’s got over hundreds of them to sample, that’s pretty cool. it’s in the Rockin’ R, so it’s got nice grounds and there’s food and beer. I’m a big proponent of downtown so you know Winness Anger Fest is great. One of the coolest things I’ve done downtown is a Supper on San Antonio street that we did a couple years ago. Oh, it was awesome. It’s it was a fundraiser for the downtown association. We took picnic tables in lined them down San Antonio street kind from Ace Hardware to the tracks, a big long table. Then you would buy a table and you and 8 friends would be sitting there and the restaurants in the area would come and serve family style. We had several hundred people and light music. So it ended up being family style eating and we’re passing the bowls to each other and you know things like that and you can’t do that in a lot of other towns. 

 

David Pfeuffer

Well one of the things that I’ve seen is we have a pretty big population of people that I would say, out of necessity, live here if you have any need to be involved in the court system or the legal system. It’s based on where you reside. So even though they may not have much to do with New Braunfels they still have to engage with us and so one of the things that I’ve seen is you have a couple and one of them works in San Antonio and one of them works in Austin and this is sort of the the halfway point for each of them. One of my favorite topics and that’s food. So when I was a kid our restaurant choices were pretty limited. I remember when we became a one-McDonald’s-town and then I remember when we became a two-McDonald’s-town and that was a big deal as a junior high or high schooler. 

Tell me what your favorite restaurants are because we’ve got great ones around here now.

Nathan Manlove

I mean I can’t say a favorite. It depends on the mood. I mean we have so many good ones I kind of like being downtown. You know there are really great restaurants by my office down here. I can walk to Muck and Fuss, that’s a really good restaurant.I go to this restaurant called Cancun fairly often, it’s over by the post office. McAdoo’s downtown is awesome. You were here when Myron’s opened and everybody’s like “you’re going to open a prime steakhouse downtown? You’re nuts!” and they are sold out every day.

I have a question for you if I could ask it. We talked about people who work in San Antonio and Austin and just use this as a home base. Basically, how do we engage people like that because I will fight tooth and nail to make sure that New Braunfels is never a suburb.

 

David Pfeuffer

Well, you’re right, it is a challenge. I think the way you do it is largely the way we are doing it. The first way you’re going to get folks that you know are using it as a halfway point so to speak is to get them involved through something fun that they can do locally. All these festivals accomplish that in many regards. All the great restaurants, particularly the great downtown restaurants, or the great restaurants out in the Gruene area will attract those folks. They might try out Wassailfest or Wein and Saengerfest they have a great time. They see a fantastic area of town and how pretty it is, and they meet some people. Every time we have one of these festivals, all these booths are run by nonprofits. They start talking to somebody and next thing you know they find out “wow I could do this, I could be involved in this event”. I’ve seen a lot of people like that, who have gravitated from not expecting to be involved in the New Braunfels community to getting involved.You gotta hook them with something fun and something exciting. A Lot of people don’t realize they have a volunteer gene in them until they participate in something as a guest. They show up for the craft beer festival and the next thing you know they sign up and be one of the servers and so they get involved that way and it sort of snowballs and leads from one thing to the next. 

Nathan Manlove

Yeah, this town gets in your blood. When you go do more things here and the more you see “wow this is a locally owned business” or “this is a nonprofit benefiting from this”, you can’t help but care about this place. Everyone loves it so much and wants it to be its best and I think that’s special.

 

David Pfeuffer

As a final thing we’ll play a little quiz that I love. In about 1850, New Braunfels was the fourth largest city in Texas. Now the question is, what were the 3 bigger ones?

Nathan Manlove

Okay, I’ll guess I’m gonna say Houston was probably one, Galveston and San Antonio?

 

David Pfeuffer

So you got two. Galveston was one and San Antonio was one, but the third one is really tough.

It’s not too far from where you grew up and it involved cattle.It was on the cattle drive trail. Fort Worth! Those were the 3 largest cities. It’s pretty hard to believe that at one time in the history of Texas that New Braunfels was the fourth largest city. Anyway, thank you for being our guest on our Maiden Voyage broadcast or podcast or whatever cast we’re having but anyway, thanks a bunch and I hope I can repay the favor sometime if you ever get into needing some clown for something like this.

 

Nathan Manlove

I appreciate you having me and thanks for all you do in our community. You know you don’t get the accolades you deserve.

 

David Pfeuffer

Well thank you for all you do. Thank you very much for being here and with that we will sign off.

 

David G. Pfeuffer