Turning a Vision into a Real Estate Reality
January 19, 2009
by Rudy Arispe
Deborah Bauer remembers driving up and down an area known
as Stone Oak Parkway in the early ’90s, sensing that it would be a wonderful place for development.
Back then, however, Stone Oak Parkway was nothing more than a number of paved streets, “but with
tons of potential,” she recalls.
“There were very few houses. All the streets were in, but you could drive along Stone Oak Parkway and
never see another car or go through a stoplight,” Bauer says. “It was like a wide open blank sheet. I
thought it was an amazing piece of property because it had these beautiful Hill Country views. So I got
some investors from Austin and we started buying here.”
Much has evolved since the 1990s, and Stone Oak Parkway as we know it is a bustling mecca of
upscale homes and apartment complexes, row after row of retail stores, medical office buildings, trendy
nightclubs, restaurants and traffic.
Bauer also has grown by leaps and bounds on a professional scale over the past decades. Very few
women, in fact, do what she does for a living.
As president and owner of Drake Commercial Group in the heart of Stone Oak Parkway, she deals in raw land transactions as a commercial real estate broker
serving clients in Texas.
Her success story begins in Austin during the 1980s, when she was a single parent raising two children
and obtained her real estate license to earn a living. Shortly after going to work for a builder selling
homes, her career blossomed.
“I loved working with people, and everything just clicked. I was getting to know CEOs, who would ask
me to find them income-producing properties, which led to finding land for the builders that I had
worked for and developing master-planned communities,” Bauer says.
After amassing a number of important business contacts and a solid resume, Bauer opened her own
company in 1988. However, she chose not to include her name in the company moniker.
“Life was different for women-owned businesses in the ’80s,” Bauer says, “and since I was dealing with
land and with large developers mostly from Austin and other parts of the state and the country, I chose
a strong name: the Drake Commercial Group. I named it after the Drake Hotel in Chicago.”
In 1991, Bauer opened an office in San Antonio, and in 1994 she built an office on Stone Oak Parkway
and moved the company headquarters from Austin to San Antonio. In a nutshell, Bauer scouts for land
for buyers and then arranges deals between buyers, investors and developers.
“I’ve been blessed through the years to work on large tracts of land and to go in and work with
engineers and land planners to achieve the best master plans,” she says. “It’s nice to drive through and
see these beautiful homes, apartment complexes, wonderful retail centers and schools all come
Her portfolio could fill a notebook. In addition to being credited for the development of much of Stone
Oak Parkway, Bauer has her tentacles all across the city, including the recent sale and marketing of a
2,000-acre master plan on the far West Side and a current project involving 300 acres at the southeast
corner of Interstate 10 and Loop 1604. She’s also been the force behind the development of the
Cottage Estates and Vineyard Estates in the Dominion, to name a few.
Gordon Hartman, founder of Gordon Hartman Homes, has worked with Bauer for more than 10 years. “She is not only a business associate, but we’ve also become good friends,” Hartman says. “She can
present the facts on properties very well and will do what it takes to follow through to make deals
Bauer’s right-hand man is someone dear to her heart. It’s her 36-year-old son, Travis Bauer, company
vice president, who joined Drake Commercial Group in 1995 after graduating from the University of
Texas at San Antonio with a business degree.
“For me, it’s the greatest gift to work with your children,” she says, “and it’s great to have someone I
can trust and depend on, and clients appreciate how he works.”
Travis says he has enjoyed working with his mother over the past 10 years. “Our family has always had
a very close relationship, and I have thoroughly enjoyed learning the business from one of the best,” he
says. “I have always had a great deal of respect for the way she handles herself in the business. She is
without a doubt one of the hardest working people I have ever been around. She truly has a love for
the business and for putting deals together.”
Outside of work, Bauer enjoys spending time with her 6-year-old grandson and 4-year-old granddaughter by her daughter, Shelly, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She also enjoys
vacationing where there is “blue, blue water and white sand,” including Florida and the U.S. Virgin
For Bauer, the joy and satisfaction in her work comes from waking up each morning and knowing that
no deal will be the same as the one she brokered yesterday or the day before. “I have to give all the
credit to the Lord for guiding me and opening doors for me,” she says. “If you work hard and do things
right, you’ll be blessed, and you have to give back to the community through charity. As much is given,
much is expected, and I think staying grounded and treating people the way you want to be treated are
the keys to success.”
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