Press | Talk of Texas Philanthropist and Powerhouse | Deborah Bauer
Press | Talk of Texas Philanthropist and Powerhouse | Deborah Bauer
Texas Powerhouse Deborah Bauer: A Philanthropic Journey and The Roads Traveled
Texas Powerhouse Deborah Bauer: A Philanthropic Journey and The Roads Traveled
Texas Powerhouse Deborah Bauer: A Philanthropic Journey and The Roads Traveled

Talk of Texas
December 2023

Texas Powerhouse Deborah Bauer: A Philanthropic Journey and the Roads Traveled
by Melissa Orsak
In the late 1970s, Deborah Bauer’s life took a transformative turn when she relocated from California to Texas with her two young children. Facing concern and uncertainty, Bauer was determined to start a positive new chapter. Forming instrumental relationships, persistence, and hard work enabled Bauer to raise her family and build Drake Commercial Group. It wasn’t easy, but Bauer conquered her challenges and triumphed.

Bauer’s story is inspiring. She recalls, “It was easy back then to get a real estate license. I liked people, I liked deals, I liked properties, and I liked driving around with people . . . so how hard could it be? Well, you know, it is obviously harder than that!” In 1979, she began working for a real estate firm in Austin, Texas. However, Bauer believed that entrepreneurship may be the answer, so she decided to open her own company. She consulted her attorney, who asked her to provide a name for her venture. Quickly grabbing a magazine for inspiration, she stumbled upon a picture of the Drake Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. Bauer realized in the early 1980s that having a strong name was almost required for success for a women-owned business; thus, Drake Commercial Group was born. Though Drake Commercial Group was founded in Austin, Texas, the company later shifted its base to San Antonio, where Bauer continued to build her legacy as an entrepreneur and real estate expert.

Over the past 35 years, Bauer has represented investors and developers in the purchase, development, and sale of retail, office, multi-family, and large master-planned communities. She has contributed significantly to the developments in San Antonio, including the famed Stone Oak area. She is actively marketing and selling more than 5000 acres of commercial and residential land on the far West side. Moreover, she is helping reshape the North side with a 400-acre commercial development project at the SE intersection of IH 10 and Loop 1604. This project includes two new hospitals, medical office buildings, over ten new multi-family projects, and several restaurants.

The success of the early 80s was met with a real estate bust later that decade. Bauer found herself again searching for avenues to support her family. She was determined to survive, but not at the cost of her integrity or creativity. Bauer began to see a need for non-compliant building sites, and she soon envisioned a plan to help. With her high heels and elegant charm, she bought a porta-potty business. Bauer found success that helped her thrive through the real estate bust. Once the real estate market had recovered, Bauer put her porta-potty business up for sale and was pleased to receive multiple bids that helped her exit the business.

Bauer’s focus turned to a new market, San Antonio, Texas, which in 1994 was much more of a separate market from Austin than it is today. The opportunities in San Antonio were promising, and Bauer relocated to the office she built on Stone Oak Parkway in San Antonio. Bauer was astute, and she realized her clients preferred a smaller office than the one she was currently running. So, she pivoted and reduced her company to only herself and her son, Travis Bauer, who joined the company after graduating college and now serves as President. With this lean team, Drake Commercial Group became a boutique commercial real estate company that provided top-notch service to its numerous clients. Bauer stated that she has always been overcommitted to her clients because she believes in doing the best job possible. She values her long-term relationships with her clients, some of which have lasted 25-30 years. Bauer believes in providing personalized service, including returning calls, communicating effectively, and always having someone there to answer the phone. She believes these practices were essential in her company’s growth and are especially relevant today when it is difficult to find companies that provide the personal attention clients need and crave.

Hard work and dedication earned Bauer numerous prestigious opportunities, titles, and awards, including:

Drake Commercial Group embodies Bauer’s mentality and talent, placing them at the industry's top. According to San Antonio Business Journal, Drake Commercial Group ranks in the top 20 with deals despite having only two agents. Bauer says, “It’s 100 percent relationships over a deal. We’re more than just one deal; we are long-term.” While inking out a deal has its difficulties, Bauer has found that communicating through problems with her clients is crucial. Bauer’s and Drake Commercial Group’s consistent daily effort pays off. As an example, on the day Bauer was interviewed for this article, she received a phone call from a client she had met 20 years ago. The client expressed how her fairness and kindness had left a lasting impression on him, and he hoped to work with her to sell his property. This demonstrates the value of building solid client relationships, a core principle of Drake Commercial Group’s philosophy.

Bauer’s exceptional service to her clients reflects Bauer’s service to her community. From the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, Gordon Hartman said, “I’ve known and worked with Deborah for about 25 years. She is a consummate professional with an absolute mastery of the commercial real estate market in San Antonio. She has been incredibly successful in her work and devotes her energy and passion to helping numerous local organizations through her philanthropy. I am proud to consider her a friend and colleague.”

Bauer is a woman who desires to strengthen the world around her. While juggling the responsibilities of raising two children and growing a thriving business, Bauer believed that “All of us are blessed in every business. We need to share; we need to be giving. You can’t just take and not give back. I think you have got to give back to whatever touches your heart the most. God has given us all gifts, and if we’ve been blessed with that gift, we should be giving back from that as well.” One of Bauer’s many gifts is her desire to build up the people and communities around her.

Several women today will attest that Bauer has played a significant role in helping them achieve their professional goals. She always has an open door for women who seek her advice and counsel, and she strives to help them avoid some of the pitfalls she has had to overcome.

Soon after relocating to San Antonio, Bauer joined a business group where she made friends with three ladies from the area with diverse backgrounds. This group of four felt a shared gratitude for the blessings they had received, which inspired them to act. They noticed that many charities in the area did not give 100% of their proceeds to those in need due to high administrative overheads. So, they put their heads together and devised a plan to organize parties on behalf of smaller charitable organizations in town that were not receiving national aid to help increase donations and reduce administrative costs for those organizations. They called themselves “Women Give Back.” This group focuses on encouraging donations and appropriate gifting to support selected charities. All proceeds from the Women Give Back parties are given to the chosen charity, with no deductions for administrative costs. Their generous monetary donations and time have benefited organizations such as the Battered Women’s and Children’s Center, The Humane Society, ChildSafe, and Wings. Bauer believes giving is a two-way street, where the giver is more blessed than the receiver. She says, “Every time you give, you may be helping the person, but I think you get more than you give to them. You are blessed more than they are; however, you are helping them.”

Bauer also dedicated her time and money to Young Life, a Christian-based ministry that draws young adults to Jesus Christ through service, education, and fun. One of her favorite service memories was helping host Young Life’s golf tournaments, which raised funds to send kids to camp. Bauer shares that “it is incredibly humbling to see a group of 60-70 men and women, from all parts of the community, led in prayer before they start out for a full course. They are all giving back.”

In addition, Bauer supports her son-in-law, Danny Williams, who serves as the Hill Country Area Director/Director of Camping/CampUs Ministry Coordinator for Still Water Hill Country in Boerne, Texas. Still Water focuses on providing fun, life-changing, Christian-led summer camps for youth.

Bauer’s journey has profoundly impacted her children, who have been with her every step of the way. She is a survivor, and so are they! Bauer feels nothing is more important than her two children, their spouses, and four grandchildren. They have seen it all and have come out on top. They are incredible, strong, and focused on the Lord. She has tried to be a role model for them and others, showing them what to do, how to treat people, and how to succeed.

Deborah Bauer offers advice for those in her industry, but it applies to all.

“Be creative, think outside the box, and make it happen.”

To the business world, apply the following basic principles, “1. Whether the market is good or bad, stay in touch with your clients, 2. Create relationships with them, 3. Be honest, 4. Walk your clients through everything, 5. Communicate the old-fashioned way [by returning calls and talking directly to your clients]. It’s basic; you have to earn their respect.”

To the women in her field, “It is still hard for women. Women are very respected in business, but you have to really earn it”.

Get involved for all those who want to pay forward the blessings they have received. Learn more about Women Give Back, Young Life, Still Water, or a charitable organization you feel passionate about and make a difference.

Finally, “Stay true to yourself during hard times and always have a fallback plan in case it all falls through.” Bauer knew that if everything unraveled, she could employ the basic skills she learned to survive, and everything would work out. She feels God’s hand in her life and attributes her blessings to Him.

Bauer’s legacy is truly an inspiration to those in her field, to women, and to everyone desiring to give back. Bauer is a strong woman of passion, action, and integrity. Linda Elliott, president of Elliott Connection, shared this about Bauer, “[Deborah] has integrity, which is the most important quality a person can possess, in my opinion.  Deborah can be trusted in all that she says and does.  More often than not, we don’t see that quality in others.  Though she has been extremely successful in her career, she puts two things ahead of that.  Her faith in God and her devotion to her family will always prevail.  I know for a fact that if it came down to making a decision which would compromise her integrity, she would sacrifice any attractive opportunity to maintain her dedication to honor God and family.”

Deborah Bauer continues to set high standards for her family, community, and the world. Not only did she survive the overwhelming rigors of her early years, but she thrived. Her setbacks became her strengths, and her strengths became others' blessings. Her unwavering faith, resilience, dedication to success, and service to others, set her apart as an iconic role model for those aspiring to conquer something or be something great.

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