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Remembering the King of Hospitality
Bob Thieman

February 25, 2024

by David Bossman

I shall always remember Bob Thieman. He was one of those special characters who speaks his mind and keeps his promises. He could be tough, but he also was incredibly charitable. Perhaps most important, he loved to see people have fun. For all of those reasons, the man was a San Miguel icon.

Bob's death on February 14th in Dallas, Texas was not a surprise to his close friends. He had been treated for prostate cancer for at least three years, but his health continued to slowly fail. He remained in regular contact with many friends, including his buddy and business partner, Juan Travis. He died a peaceful death, accompanied by his wife and daughter.

As with so many strong individuals, it's helpful to look back to their upbringing. Bob was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on February 4, 1952. He attended Catholic schools, even serving as an altar boy. Bob was also on his high school swim team. His experience as an Eagle Scout also helped shape his outlook on life. While at the University of Cincinnati, he played drums for a band called The Unknowns. (Bob claimed that the band "lived up to its name.") He studied sociology and graduated in 1972. As with so many young men at the time, his work experience helped him decide what he wanted to do with his future. His part-time job experience at Edward's Manufacturing Company Restaurant led him to fall in love with that business. He was hooked.


Bob headed for Memphis, Tennessee where music and food went together. He and a business partner secured an SBA loan and began their dream of opening a restaurant and revitalizing the Beale Street area. During the next 15 years, he opened 17 restaurants, although most of them were not functioning at the same time. He worked hard, partied hard, and built a solid reputation in Memphis. Some of his more successful enterprises included Sunset Z Cafe, No. 1 Beale Street, and Captain Bilbao's River Restaurant.

In 1985, Thieman married Sally Gibson, a successful businesswoman from Memphis. They went to Mexico on their honeymoon and fell in love with San Miguel de Allende. They bought a vacation home here. By the late 1980's, they decided to sell their businesses and move to Mexico. The lure of SMA had been too great.

But retirement was not easy for Bob. He was still too young and energetic. "How many rounds of golf can you play? How many private planes can you fly? I failed Retirement 101," he once told me. Like so many before him, Thieman went back to work. This time, it was designing and building residential developments with a partner. They built Privada del Sol and Cruz de San José.

They say that everyone remembers his first love, and in this case, it was Bob's love of the restaurant business. An opportunity opened up to partner with his friend George Davis who was then operating a bar/restaurant on Hidalgo. The name was Harry's New Orleans Cafe or just Harry's. Bob immediately got to work making it into the most successful restaurant in San Miguel. The year was 1999.


The restaurant business is not easy; long hours, demanding customers, and in a town like SMA, a scarcity of professional staff. That's where experience counts. Get people with real restaurant experience, train them to be good, loyal managers and let them know that you have the last word. That was Bob's recipe for success. As a result, his customers were always treated well by the bartenders and wait staff. Thieman, from his corner table, made sure of that.

And then there were those nights when the "Boss" was feeling especially happy, and he would shout, "Drinks on the house." Other times, he would sing along with Sinatra or Presley. The music got louder after 8 when he was in the house and the food and drinks just kept coming. On most nights, the chatter spilled out on Calle Hidalgo where the customers shmoozed and smoked. Mexicans and expats mixed comfortably. Rarely, did any tourist walk out without a smile, and the locals almost always stopped at Bob's table to say good night. He was the master of hospitality, and people always came back for more. Harry's, now Hank's, is a mix of camaraderie, music, good food and fun; kind of a Mexican version of Cheers.

The restaurant business can be hard on a marriage. Bob and Sally decided to split, but remained friendly. In 2001, he married Karla Rosales. They welcomed a daughter in 2002 and named her Amanda. After the couple split, Bob remained in touch with his daughter.

Bob with daughter, Amanda and wife, Lisa

In 2002, he opened another Hank's in the center of Querétaro, a restaurant that is almost double the size of his original one. It too developed into a social and financial success with dozens of Mexican business people stopping by after work. The clientele may have been slightly different, but the formula remained the same: keep everybody happy with good food and drinks, popular music and great service; fun, fun, and more fun.

In 2020, Bob married his long-time friend and soulmate, Lisa Tyson, who has her own law practice in Dallas, Texas. At about the same time, Thieman was diagnosed with prostate cancer, so he sought treatment in Texas Oncology and UT Southwestern. It was an uphill struggle for the last three years, even for a man who had survived several near-death experiences. Last week, Bob Thieman finally found peace.


Visit Hank's at Hildalgo 12

Special Note: Much of this information is based on Bob's official obituary.


David Bossman is a 26-year resident of San Miguel. Born in Brooklyn, NY, he went to CCNY and studied journalism & education. A high school teacher for 29 years in the Bronx, he was always involved in the community, including being selected to the Planning Board by the Borough President and, later, elected to the Community School Board.

Bossman’s "retirement" years in SMA have given him the opportunity to pursue even more volunteer community work. He started by writing a film column for Atencion San Miguel and then served as the Board Secretary for the Biblioteca. In 2005, he became a Charter member of the Midday Rotary Club, and later its 4th President. Then he led the successful movement to stop McDonald’s from putting a restaurant in the city center.

As the President of Sanmiguelenses Unidos, he has been a stern advocate for better Security measures in our city, pressing various municipal administrations for stronger efforts to prevent house robberies and muggings. Bossman and a team of activists also worked together with government officials to eliminate traffic on Canal, Hidalgo and San Francisco in El Centro so that a walking mall could be established on key downtown streets.

Follow his security efforts on Facebook on Unidos por la Seguridad SMA. Over the years, David has been cited by many local officials for his efforts to create a safer environment for all Sanmiguelenses.


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