The Saddle Rack originally opened on Aug 13, 1976. Hank Guenther who was the original owner of The Saddle Rack and the owner of the 6 and a half acres and building in San Jose which The Rack stood. Originally Mr. Guenther came to San Jose in the late 1960’s to run The Sweden House, an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord, eventually changing the name to Bit O’ Sweden.
When the restaurant business started slowing, he successfully bought the restaurant out and opened The Saddle Rack. Andy Buchanan, who met and befriended Guenther at the Eastridge Ice Arena when the two played ice hockey years before, became general manager. Guenther's club joined the rest of the country & western bars, including Cowtown in San Jose, the Horseshoe Club in Santa Clara and the Silver Saddle in Morgan Hill, the Rio Grande in Mtn. View, and Cheers in Sunnyvale. All have since closed.
In October 2000 Mr. Guenther sold the property to KB Homes and The Saddle Rack closed its doors in San Jose on August 5, 2001. Getting an offer he couldn’t refuse, Gary Robinson purchased the rights to the Saddle Rack name from Mr. Guenther and along with Andy Buchanan reopened The Saddle Rack in Fremont, CA in April 2003. Unfortunately, Mr. Guenther never saw The Rack reopened due his twin-engine airplane crashing into a muddy South San Jose hillside killing Mr.Guenther and two passengers. (Mr. Guenther was a volunteer pilot with Los Medicos Voladores, the Bay Area-based flying doctors program that ferries physicians from the United States to Mexico, where the doctors treat the patients for free.)
“Originally, I wasn’t attracted at all. My drywall business was keeping me busy and so was my resort in Northern California.” Gary, a private pilot, met Mr. Guenther and they both flew to Gary’s resort at Eagle Lake, to spend time away from the hustle and bustle of their working lives. I didn't realize it was going to be so hard to find a new location," says Robinson. After diligent searches by he and now part owner Andy Buchanan in San Jose and Santa Clara, they began to look in Fremont. Finally they decided on Fremont and claims, it was a smooth process. "They did a great job of getting us through the process; this place had to be rezoned. Robinson moved his drywall business from Campbell to a building on a three-acre site on Boscell Road and redesigned a portion of it to house The Saddle Rack. The purchase of an additional contiguous acre provided additional and necessary parking.
A large open area is surrounded by bars, a mechanical bull, Red Bull Specilialty Bar, food service and a "Margarita Chair." A large stage with impressive sound and sophisticated lighting is the focal point for stage shows that often highlight well-known musicians and vocalists as well as future superstars. Huge video screens perch on perimeter walls. The main dance floor is used for dancing, lessons or seating while a smaller area serves as a line dancing haven.
On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights (7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.), the main dance floor fills with a happy crowd of almost any age (over 21) stepping and twirling and sashaying to the voice of a patient dance instructor teaching line and couples dance to the beat of good country music. There is no extra charge for lessons. Every night there is live music and on Saturdays there are two live bands who perform. Robinson notes that one of his biggest concerns when acquiring The Saddle Rack was "taking on liability that I really didn't need. My idea was to create an environment where people can have a good time." There is no way to confuse the Saddle Rack with a hip hop club; this is a fun and orderly high energy crowd that enjoys a good show, country-style dancing and music - and maybe a session with a spirited mechanical bull.
“Each night takes on its own environment," says Robinson. The dance floor is always popular while some people gather at the pool tables or by the mechanical bull or just watch many of the large screen TV's in the club. "It's amazing to see the energy on the dance floor, especially on a Friday or Saturday night when house band Diablo Road featuring Nashville Star Alumni Jewels Hanson gets the crowd going."
Robinson's dream of an active nightclub where people come to meet, relax, dance and have a lot of fun has been realized. He credits much of the success to Partner/General Manager Andy Buchanan who has been with The Saddle Rack for 30 years and much of the staff who moved with the Saddle Rack as well. "I am very proud of the culture of our club and the clientele it attracts," says Robinson.
Now that Gary, Andy and The Saddle Rack staff have done their part, the only question remaining is, "When will you visit The Saddle Rack?"