Meet the People You Need to Know Before you Go
Twice a year, in the spring and fall, the Texas antiques fair rolls into Round Top (population: 90). With it comes 100,000 shoppers in search of the world’s finest antiques. We’re talking very old, incredibly rare, one-of-kind pieces you can’t find anywhere else. If you’re in the business, it’s what you live for – found objects and artifacts with such provenance. But when you ask vendors and shoppers what they love most about Round Top, they will invariably say: the people. It’s the people who are truly unique. At each show, you’ll always meet a character or two. These are the rare ones. Some people collect things; these people collect lifelong friends. Here, we have compiled a few of our favorite characters to help you put a name to a face. If you happen to spot any of them out and about, you know you’re in the right place.
Name: Danny “Big D” Riebeling
Business/Occupation: Jack-of-all-trades at The Prairie
Claim to Fame: A Round Top resident, “Big D” is a local legend. How can you tell? Three restaurants have named a menu item after him: the Big D Burger at Round Top Rifle Hall (“Monday nights are burger nights,” he says); a Big D steak that could be found at a great little restaurant owned by Liz and Ronnie Klump a few years ago; and the Big D Pizza at Stone Cellar.
Born and raised in Houston, moving to Round Top was the best decision he’s made, he tells us. Among his fondest memories: Schultz’s Grocery Store and Watering Hole (“Let’s just say, those were some fun times!”).
These days, when he’s not at The Prairie, where he’s worked for more than 20 years as a cook, gardener, and carpenter, he can be found at Market Hill (“Paul Michael has really taken me in!”).
He also serves as “body guard” when Miranda Lambert comes to town.
“One of my favorite stories is when Miranda asked me to take her and her mom and friends to the Junk Gypsy prom. They ended up riding in the back of my truck, and I was so nervous, I was driving 20 mph on the highway!”
Name: Bud Royer
Business/Occupation: Founder, Royer’s Round Top Café
Claim to Fame: When “Pie Man” Bud Royer took over Royer’s Round Top Café in 1987, he had never made a pie before. (“I had never run a restaurant. We had to figure it all out.”)
He said he bought cookbooks with pictures in them (“because you eat with your eyes first”). The ingredients had to be simple because of the equipment they had. Using his grandmother’s pie crust recipe (“flour, water, sal, and shortening”), he started with the chocolate chip pie recipe on the back of the Nestle’s Tollhouse bag, and the one for buttermilk pie on the back of a milk carton.
“My mom gave me her apple pie recipe,” he says, “but I added a few things. When she tasted it, she said, ‘That’s not my recipe.’ So, I called it, ‘Not My Mom’s Apple Pie.’”
Soon, pies became his thing. But Bud hadn’t changed a thing on the original café menu.
One day, when he and his wife Karen were sitting on the porch, they noticed all of the cars in the parking lot were Range Rovers, Tahoes, and Mercedes. It was then that they realized that most of their customers were weekenders, coming in from Austin or Houston just for his food. It was good food. But he decided to make it worth their drive, adding unexpected items like rack of lamb, steak, and grilled shrimp BLT. “We are in the experience business,” he says.
Two things that have kept him in business all these years: Antiques Week and Festival Hill. During these events, “We fill every seat every night. We take reservations at 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 8 p.m., and 9:30 p.m., just like they do in New York. Looking at the list of patrons on the list, he says, “These people have become our friends. That’s our shot in the arm on those 20-hour days. We’re tired. But these relationships are our inspiration. That’s our joy.”
Name: Sheila Youngblood
Business/Occupation: Proprietor, Rancho Pillow
Claim to Fame: High priestess of the whimsical wonderland Rancho Pillow, Sheila has become known for her Feasts in the Field under the big Texas sky.
The tradition began in 2016 when Rancho Pillow, previously a private estate, first opened to the public. Situated on 20 acres, the property is dotted with interesting structures – an old barn, a water tower, a teepee; and, filled with antiques – art, neon signs, cowboy hats, and costumes. Everywhere you look, something commands your attention. The word “Listen” is painted on the roof of the bathhouse. It’s a feast of the senses, walking the grounds, sipping a welcome cocktail, and becoming a part of this cosmic community.
Meanwhile, Sheila sets the long table for a hundred people, using mixed-matched china and bright glassware that catch the light in that magical golden hour.
“It’s been my family place for years,” Sheila says, addressing guests at the spring feast. “We opened it three years ago this spring, March of 2016, and because of you, it’s still becoming something awesome, so thank you for being here.”
As the sun sets, dinner is served family-style. Food, wine, and conversation are shared under the stars. After dinner, people gather around the fire. A local musician strums a guitar.
“Rancho is about celebrating authenticity. I invite our guests to connect with one another in a deeper way. Connecting, sharing, laughing, inspiring, and deeply listening, we discover more about each other (and ourselves) that way.”
Visit RanchoPillow.com to learn more about upcoming events.
Name: Denver Courtney, a.k.a. Denverado, a.k.a Disco Jesus, a.k.a The White James Brown, Facilitator of Funk and Fun, The Funky Monk, Disco King, and the Deacon of Disco Alley.
Business/Occupation: Musician, designer, crafter of experiences for Denverado Texas, a lifestyle brand that brings people together to have a great time
Claim to Fame: After decades on the road in a touring band, he wound up in Warrenton, Texas, about five years ago, he says, and became a part of the Zapp Hall family.
“I was reeling from the loss of a few significant people in my life who had passed away within a six-month period. I had stepped out of music. I was lost in grief. The Lehane/Zapp family and the Round Top community as a whole really embraced me, loved on me, encouraged me, prayed over me, and helped nurture me back to my creative self. So, Round Top, for me, was a new beginning, a new season of life, and it is where I launched Denverado's lifestyle brand. I am a connector of people. I am a smile maker.”
As a designer, he provides new and vintage provisions, construction, salvage, and barn building. When he built his barn at Zapp Hall, it created an alleyway, forming what he calls Disco Alley.
“It was all a gift from God,” he says. “I have never seen God’s face, so, to me, the disco ball represents just that – brilliant, reflective, multi-faceted. Disco Alley isn't just a dance party, it’s a prayer party, it’s a place to be revived, it's a celebration of life! Every day my advice to myself and to whoever is reading this is to stop, slow down, take a pause, look in awe, enjoy the light show, and let His light brighten your alleyway. As always, keep it funky ... the journey continues.”
Name: Jacquelyn Ditsler
Business/Occupation: Owner, Round Top Design, and Managing Director, Bybee Foundation
Claim to Fame: “The mother of modern-day Round Top,” Jacquelyn is managing director of the Bybee Foundation, which is responsible for purchasing, saving and developing its most historic structures.
Jacquelyn discovered Round Top in the mid-’80s. She and her husband were on their way back from their ranch, and they drove through Round Top. Vendors were set up on the square.
“Those were the very early days of the fair,” Jacquelyn describes. “I was shopping with my girlfriends in the fall of 2001, and my husband called to check on us. He asked if I’d bought anything special, and I said, ‘Yes, I did.’ He asked what it was, and I said, ‘I bought a house!’ He asked, ‘When were you planning to tell me about your purchase?’ And I said, ‘After I had a couple glasses of wine.’”
“I loved the countryside surrounding Round Top. It reminded me of the English countryside. While Round Top was fun during Antiques Week or Festival Hill, there was nothing else except Royer’s. ‘Why,’ I asked, ‘had this treasure of a village never been developed?’
Jacquelyn found out about the Bybee Foundation and would eventually become its managing director. She began renting space in an office building and leasing to tenants. This was the beginning of Bybee Square. Her dream for Round Top was coming true, and it’s only grown from there.
“We are now called the Aspen or The Hamptons of the South. There's no other small town that has what Round Top does.”