Rancho Cortez was founded by the married couple Mary Cortez and Larry Cortez. As of 2020, it has been fifteen years since Mary and Larry found the ranch.
In the beginning, it was Mary and Larry with their daughter, KD, and their son, Anthony, living together in Southern California. Their home was in the rural, ski resort town of Big Bear Lake. They had a little ranch up there and had some horses. The young daughter, KD has a love of horses. She still does today as she manages and teaches the Rancho Cortez Barrel Racing School For Girls.
The family came to visit Larry’s sister in San Antonio. “Let’s go out to the Hill Country. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid,” Larry tells Mary. So they did. They headed to Bennie’s U Bar, it no longer exists, which was a hotspot around the town of Bandera. Larry remembers, “I remember Bandera because I went there when I was a kid. There was Bennie’s U Bar here and a few honky-tonks. It was next to the Twin Elm. Staying at Bennie’s U Bar was an experience that I’ve never forgotten and I kinda wanted to relive it.”
Then Came The Ranch
They drove around and came down Hay Hollar road. Larry and Mary had no clue where they were when they saw a piece of property that became Rancho Cortez. They saw the sign for the piece of property and got a hold of a realtor. A history of Rancho Cortez started with a real estate transaction.
Did they know anything about guest ranches? No, didn’t have a clue. Larry headed back to California and Mary stayed on the ranch to start remodeling. She even brought the first guests in and took take care of them. They eventually made their first hire. An old buddy of Larry’s by the name of Chris Anderwald. He was a real cowboy. If you look up cowboy in a dictionary, more than likely, Chris’ picture is in there somewhere. He was a rodeo cowboy and great with guests.
Fifteen years seems to have passed by pretty quick
Well, every day on the ranch, they’re working. Mary enjoys the hiking. She would rather do it with people than take to the Hill Country alone. She is also into the bicycling and uses the fitness facilities more than Larry ever does. He likes the horses. He likes being outside. Larry is in love with the dirt and all the ‘doggone’ rocks.
Chris Anderwald, was raised on working at a ranch business. Larry and Mary hired him and he taught them the ropes. Chris was quoted saying, “You know what, Larry? It don’t matter where you build these places. People are gonna come. You gotta remember while they’re here is to let them relax, enjoy themselves, and keep them busy. Nobody wants to come here and not know what’s going on next.”
So, thanks to these words, Rancho Cortez does all kinda additional activities. First, is the horseback riding. It is the additions of the ten-pin, roping, saddle classes, and much more that keeps a visitors’ attention. It just goes on, and on, and on. The ranch has a gym, a swimming pool, an indoor pool, a game room, and every kind of hiking trail. It is possible that it is overdone. Larry says, “I know that a person could stay here for two or three days and get a chance to at least do everything once. I feel good about that. I really do.
The Restaurant At Rancho Cortez
Mary and Larry run a full restaurant at Rancho Cortez. Before starting the restaurant, the only thing they knew about a restaurant is you go in and wait for the maitre d’ to sit you down. Larry continues, “We had no clue that there was people working in the kitchen and additional servers, along with a dishwashers and even more people to clean up after the guests. We didn’t know any of that, okay? We really didn’t. A day-by-day learning process. We had to have cooks that were licensed and could get health certificates. A History Of Rancho Cortez shows this as a process and not just a something that the pair understood from the start. They worked through it.
“My wife probably shouldered 90% of that, if not more. She made sure she read up on all the laws. She just followed through with everything.” Larry said. When the couple got here, they realized that, the dining hall wasn’t big enough. We could only seat, maybe 20 people in the dining hall.
A History Of Rancho Cortez Told Through Building More Buildings
So Mary and Larry had to add on. Then came the realization that what was needed was more rooms. Therefore, they grew to 33 rooms. Then they realized there was the need for a gym and an indoor swimming pool. Eventually, a game room, a family meeting area, ect. It just kept going and going and going.
Many people asking me, Larry says, “Are you and your wife gonna make it any bigger? Are y’all gonna put more buildings up, or are y’all gonna…?” Larry’s my response to them is, “We’re one building too many right now.”
The pair is happy at the size of the current complex. This is a family-owned ranch. You will see the actual owners out here. They are very much a part of the facility. Each and every day. Also, they want to assure the guests that these are the people in charge. Finally, welcoming each guest to make sure that we know whom these guests are.
Changing Rules On Safety Over The 15 Year History
Larrys’ favorite thing to tell people is, “Mi casa es su casa. When you’re at my ranch as a guest, guess what? You own it. I’m working for you. I’m your hired hand.” That feeling of being at home is very much a part of making a ranch work. Let your kids run around and have fun. Let them enjoy themselves. The parents can then take to a ride or hike or hit the gym. All the top staff has first aid training and plenty of Band-Aids.
When the Cortezs’ moved in 15 years ago, safety had to be learned and developed. There were no helmets and no pads. Through a learning process, they purchased a number of helmets in all sizes. In the State of Texas, it’s not a law that you wear a helmet. Now, the law at Rancho Cortez is that people under 18 that want to ride a horse have to wear a helmet. That’s not state law. Larry says they do that to protect the guests. If you are over 18 and want to ride without a helmet, we have a form for you to fill out. When people ask Larry, “Should I wear a helmet?” If you have to ask then you, “Should I wear a helmet.”
The staff checks all of the saddles, and the bridles, and the cinches, and the lead lines. When you get on our animal, we are thinking safety, safety, and more safety. We give a little talk before every ride. You can stay at the ranch for 10 days of rides and every time, you are gonna hear that little talk about safety. Keep in mind that we’re dealing with live animals. You just have to always be alert when dealing with live animals.
The Lifestyle Behind Running A Working Ranch
Mary and Larry Cortez will tell you that this is a lifestyle. This is about enjoying people. A history of Rancho Cortez is about a couple enjoying the outdoors while providing a healthy relationship with the animals. At the core, it is an entertainment business. They got into the entertainment business to make sure that the guests are just as happy as you can be. You will find in a history of Rancho Cortez spanning 15 years for Larry to learn how to connect with people from all over the world. Each one wanting to do the cowboy thing for as long as they could. They have to recognize that, in fact, working with large animals can be just as dangerous as it is rewarding. Larry says that the mission of him and his wife and his kids and all the staff is to take care of the guests and ensure they are safety. Then they can tell others that they had an experience of a lifetime.