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The Local

Boutiques, Heritage, and the Heart of Local Business with Kat Kyle Balmos

Article by Sarah Mottu

Photography by Revitalize Visuals

Originally published in NBTX City Lifestyle

If you ever find yourself walking the streets of New Braunfels with 6th generation local, you’re in for a treat. Local business owner and entrepreneur, Kat Kyle Balmos cannot hide her passion for the city as she points left and right with zealous excitement while walking between her boutiques. She calls attention to historical buildings, explaining their past, who owned them, what different businesses have come, gone, and stayed over the years, which building housed her family's different ventures, and more. Kat has made her entrepreneurial footprint in New Braunfels through her debut boutique, Lot 59, her thriving flagship store known as The Local, and her most recent venture, Heritage. 

Kat’s journey into boutique ownership began with Lot 59, a unique space that blends vintage charm with contemporary flair. Reflecting on its inception, she shares, "Lot 59 was birthed out of necessity to provide for my daughter." This first venture was a testament to her retail acumen, mixing vintage and new items while showcasing the work of local vendors.

In 2018 Kat embarked on a new chapter by opening The Local. It quickly became her "flagship" store, offering a curated lifestyle atmosphere. "The Local is 'the place' to find the perfect gift for anyone or memento from a trip to our beautiful town," she says. The success of The Local and the strength of her dedicated team paved the way for her latest boutique, Heritage. "Heritage is not for everyone," she acknowledges, " It's darker in mood and atmosphere and definitely depicts that I'm older, a more mature businesswoman with a variety of tastes and am willing to take more risks."

Working in retail as a teenager, Kat found her passion for customers, fashion, and retail.  She worked her way through the ranks into management for two major national retailers, which has significantly influenced her approach to curating and managing her boutiques. She recalls, "It was amazing to work closely alongside designers, buyers, merchants, and executives carving out the brands and the importance of marketing and hiring and creating atmosphere within the stores." Her early experiences taught her valuable lessons about effective management and team building. "It's the people," she emphasizes, "Find the right people that live the brand, teach them, treat them well, and let them feel a big part of the journey."

Being a 6th generation local with deep-rooted family ties to New Braunfels, Kat has a unique perspective on the city's history and future. "I'm certainly proud to have grown up here," she shares, reflecting on her childhood and the growth that has transformed the town over the years. While acknowledging the challenges posed by growth, she recognizes the opportunities it brings. "Sure, I miss when it was small and not so overcrowded," she admits. "But I'm certain I wouldn't have been able to do what I've done without the growth." Kat emphasizes her commitment to contributing to the community's ongoing legacy "I feel a responsibility to add to this town in a positive way," she adds, recognizing her responsibility to contribute positively to the town’s unique character. 

The Local has become a popular destination in New Braunfels' historic downtown, and Kat attributes the success to several key strategies. "Downtown specifically is about maintaining its historic charm while being relevant in an 'online society'," she observes. To attract visitors to brick-and-mortar stores, she believes they must offer more than just products. She notes that the town's growth has created room for variety in retail, but it also calls for thoughtful planning. "It's so important that property owners are intentional on who they rent to and care about how it impacts the overall feeling of downtown," she advises. Kat also emphasizes the need for community involvement. "This is such a caring community," she says, "if they see you care and are working hard to add to this beautiful place... they will show up."

Kat has perfected the balance of preserving the charm and character of a historical location while also staying innovative and meeting the expectations of her customer base. “It’s a tightrope walk of preserving and growing simultaneously,” she explains. “New Braunfels has a past and a history with stories, and we must protect what makes us unique and move forward at the same time to stay relevant,” she adds. Kat’s boutiques, each with its unique identity, contribute to the diverse spectrum of New Braunfels' retail environment. Through her dedication to preserving historical buildings and her vision for a vibrant and thriving New Braunfels, Kat Kyle Balmos continues to make a lasting impact on the place she calls home.