Every year, in October, the Rattlesnake Festival is held in San Antonio. I will never forget talking to a friend in Crystal River about the San Antonio Rattlesnake Festival and having her ask why I was going to Texas! I replied that San Antonio was right here in Florida’s Nature Coast and proceeded to explain why she should visit. Today, I will tell you.
San Antonio, Florida, is a small Catholic community that was founded in 1881. Its town square has a nice park surrounded by homes, a racquetball and handball court, a Catholic school and nunnery, small businesses and a tiny post office. Quaint is the word that comes to mind here.
In one direction, you can travel out to State Road 52 and I-75, in the other you can travel out to a rural rolling countryside with lots of greenery and open fields. Many kumquats have been grown in the fields surrounding San Antonio, and in days gone by the Rattlesnake Festival was held as a rattlesnake round-up with people capturing rattlesnakes to enter competitions for size, weight and appearance although no rattlesnakes were slaughtered. The Bellamy Brothers used to play at the festival, helping to raise monies for local charities, but those times are long past.
Joseph John Herrmann came to San Antonio with his parents in 1925, where he attended St. Anthony’s School. He graduated and attended the nearby Saint Leo College Preparatory School (now Saint Leo University).
Joseph was a serial entrepreneur, starting with paper routes and caddying at the nearby Lake Jovita Golf Course. He supplemented these endeavors with selling radios, while his father began building a 2 story brick building, called The Jovita Building in 1926.
While under construction, the Bank of Dade City closed and the workers left, so the Herrmann family pitched in to complete the building that stands there to this day.
Joe’s father was a baker, and he ran a bakery on Pennsylvania Avenue. Joe would deliver the fresh loaves to residents. His father decided to move to Jacksonville to run a larger bakery and moved the rest of the family, but Joe loved San Antonio. He stayed in the town of 400 and married Rose Ullrich. Today the bakery is occupied by the Poncho Villa Mexican restaurant.
Joe and Rose had nine children and founded SAF-T-GAS in 1936, a butane and propane distributor. Its first location was the building that houses San Antonio Pottery today. By 1945, SAF-T-GAS outgrew that building, so Joe built the Herrmann Building next door. In 1946, they moved in. There were eventually SAF-T-GAS locations all the way to Plant City.
The Herrmann family owned 40 acres near Curley Road and State Road 52 which was annexed into San Antonio and commonly called “Herrmannville.”
On the second floor of the Herrmann Building, he had a furniture and appliance store that resulted from his days selling radios, and a big party room. Anyone could use “The Blue Flame” room for a party or meeting free of charge because event attendees walked past the all the new furniture and appliances which “sold themselves.”
Joe Herrmann’s other ventures include a State Farm Insurance agency, located in the Jovita building while the entire family lived on the second floor.
In 1955, Herrmann and Joe Collura founded the San Antonio Citizens Federal Credit Union.
A street is named Herrmann Road in town; a tribute to his many contributions, including being a Charter Member of the Pasco County Fair Association, a Grand Knight in the San Antonio Council 1768 of the Knights of Columbus, and a City Councilman for many years. He suggested the start of the Pioneer Florida Museum in Dade City also.
And, of course, he was deeply involved in the San Antonio Rattlesnake Festival.
Today you can visit the Herrmann Building and its various adjacent properties to find an eclectic mix of shopping and service businesses, championed by one of Joe’s sons, John C. Herrmann. Tthis area has been christened the South San Antonio Arts and Antiques district.
“Johnny Antiques” has a wonderful store on the first floor of the Herrmann Building.
Next door is a fun shop called Tangerine Hill featuring home décor, signs and more, originally this shop was outfitted by Joe as a barbershop for one of his friends. On the other side is South End Designs, where customized and monogrammed items are readily created to your specs. This shop was used for the first location of the San Antonio Federal Credit Union in 1956 and has a walk-in safe.
Red Dog Designs & Home, Barbara Huckaby’s decorating business, is affiliated with the SOSA district. Upstairs, Community Yoga and Lake House Karate Studio classes meet.
Next door is San Antonio Pottery, a fairly well-known studio where you can take classes or purchase a piece of art in the original SAF-T-GAS building.
Al’s Famous Pizza Shop Est. 1992 is a family-owned and operated pizzeria on the corner of Curley and State Road 52, with indoor and outdoor seating,
San Antonio Cyclery is a full-service bike shop offering many brands of bicycles and riding gear, as well as repair service. They are located on the northeast corner of the Curley-SR 52 intersection along with Campus Gear, a one-stop shop for collegiate, spirit gear, and more.
Back to the antique store, called San Antonio Antiques, has the tag line, “not your grandmother’s antique store.” John C. Herrmann is one of Joe and Rose’ nine children. He is a colorful gentleman, full of stories and positive energy, with a love of history and a gift for collecting the unique. After traveling the U.S. buying and selling interesting and valued objects, he brought his skills back home to this wonderful store, located in the historic Herrmann Building.
The building was completely rehabbed in 2015 and the front porch was added to the second story. Visit John, or his assistant and co-conspirator, Connie, for a bit of history and a unique selection of Floridana, mid-century modern, and decorative arts items… and Johnny LOVES to bargain. Try him. You just might get the deal of the century!
Check out San Antonio, Florida for a quiet walk around the park, a picnic, and a visit to shop the South San Antonio Arts and Antiques district.