Big Plans for Little Augusta
October 13, 2021
Written By Adam Buckallew
Investor Seeks to Revitalize Community, Create National Tourism Destination
The streets of small-town Augusta, Mo., are bustling with activity in early September. Harvest season for the local vineyards among the rolling hills of the Missouri Rhineland is quickly approaching, and work crews are busy preparing for the annual influx of tourists. But anyone familiar with Augusta who returns this fall likely will notice a few things have changed in the last year.
The town of 293 now has a gas station. The local general store has been reopened and refurbished, trollies are shuttling visitors among area wineries, several city buildings have new roofs and fresh coats of paint, and more improvements are coming soon.
Funding for the revitalization efforts comes from a $125 million investment by the Hoffmann Family of Companies, which wants to turn charming Augusta into a national tourism destination. The company has gone on a buying spree that includes four Augusta-area wineries, six vineyards, 1,500 acres, and nearly 45 buildings and structures in and around Augusta.
David Hoffmann, CEO of the Hoffmann Family of Companies, and his wife, Jerri, were born and raised in nearby Washington, Mo. The couple has fond memories of their time growing up in
Missouri, but their roots are only part of the reason for their willingness to invest in the St. Charles County community and the surrounding area. They see potential in making Augusta known for what it is, the oldest and first nationally recognized wine region in America.
“This is a treasured part of America that a lot of people don’t know about,” Hoffmann says while referring to the rich history of Augusta’s wineries that date back to the 1800s pre-prohibition area and the city’s designation as the first American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the United States in 1980. “We hope to change that.”
Restoring Historic Augusta
Ashley Hesjedal, who moved back to Augusta not long before the recent changes, is helping manage several pieces of the effort to rejuvenate the 185-year-old community for the Hoffmanns. She serves as director of specialty retail for Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate and is helping bring the Hoffmanns’ vision for Augusta to fruition.
Hesjedal oversaw renovations to the Augusta Emporium, a downtown building constructed in the 1860s that had most recently served as an antique shop. The Emporium now serves as a general store offering coffee, food, wine and sundries to visitors. In early September, Hesjedal was coordinating with asphalt crews, electricians and MFA Oil Company to ready the opening of the town’s new and only gas station just across the street from the Emporium.
“The momentum and enthusiasm that the Hoffmann family has brought with them to Augusta are refreshing,” Hesjedal said. “As a resident, I’m excited for the bright future of the town.”
A collection of vintage 1950s Chevrolet trucks parked outside many of the Hoffmann-owned properties is symbolic of David and Jerri Hoffmann’s approach to renovating the wineries and other buildings they have acquired in Augusta.
“We’re bringing (the buildings) back to their original grandeur,” David Hoffmann told podcast host Abby Llorico, during a recent episode of Abby Eats St. Louis. “We don’t tear anything down; we restore. And that’s pretty unique in the developing world.”
For example, recent renovations to Mount Pleasant Estates, the oldest winery in the Augusta Appellation, included replacement of termite-damaged floors, mold removal in the cellars, improvements to the winery’s drainage and ventilation systems, and a new coat of rosé and merlot paint – restoring the winery to its original color from the 1800s.
Hesjedal said the overwhelming majority of her fellow Augusta residents appreciate efforts to bring new life to the community.
“The people I’ve talked to are relieved to know the town will be able to survive and thrive moving forward,” she said.
Joyce Holtmann, whose father once owned the general store where the Emporium now operates, approves of the changes she observed in her former hometown this summer.
“Augusta was dying, and now it is coming back to life,” Holtmann told the Boone Country Connection during the ribboncutting ceremony for the Emporium in July. “My dad would be elated to see his old store looking so fresh and serving the public again.”
More to Come
Many of the developments the Hoffmanns have planned for Augusta will be opening in the fall. The Kickstand, a bike shop with rentals, service and snacks at the Katy Trail State Park Augusta Trailhead is already operational and expanding to nearby Defiance. Vineyard tours by ATV, cellar and production tours are coming soon, a coffee shop will open before the holidays, cottage style guest houses are now available to the public plus a trail side Hostel is opening soon. Other plans include a cigar and wine bar, restaurants, high-end boutique hotels, an amphitheater, and a 12-hole golf course designed by famous golf course architect, Rees Jones.
In a bid to take advantage of the city’s proximity to the Missouri River, the Hoffmanns are bringing in a three-story 105-foot luxury yacht, Miss Augusta, to set sail from the nearby Klondike Park Boat Ramp. The vessel is now booking sightseeing tours that will begin in the upcoming weeks and private events.
The Hoffmann Family of Companies is partnering with St. Charles County to expand the pier 120 feet. The county will maintain ownership of the dock, and the company will pay a per-person fee to the county parks department for its usage in addition to splitting the cost of the construction.
Groundbreaking for a hotel in Augusta, which will be called the Hoffmann Lodge & Spa, is slated to break ground this fall and take about a year-and-a-half to open. The 5-star hotel will feature 40-60 rooms and suites, a conference center, a wedding venue, luxury spa, restaurant, swimming pools, and other amenities.
A smaller, 18-room luxury hotel will open 13 miles down the road in Marthasville, Mo., at the Emmaus Home Complex, a former seminary. The site will also offer employee housing for the staff from both hotels.
In a press release, the Hoffmann Family of Companies said the hotels will “help make the area an overnight destination where visitors can come to enjoy the wineries and shops for the weekend and help put Augusta on the map as a tourist destination.”
“There is a certain charm to Augusta that makes it so unique,” David Hoffmann says. “It deserves to be recognized for making outstanding wines and for its history being the first wine region in America. We’re going to let the world know about Missouri wines and put Augusta on the map. We’re not going to be the next Napa Valley, we’re going to be better. We have more to offer.”