The historic Elite Cafe building on Waco’s traffic circle will become another restaurant under the ownership of Chip and Joanna Gaines, local moguls and stars of the hit HGTV program “Fixer Upper,” but not before an auction of the building’s contents that will raise money for Mission Waco and its efforts to open a nonprofit grocery store in North Waco.
Everything from furniture, appliances and artwork to the vintage Cadillac and signs out front — a total of more than 300 items — will go on sale to the highest bidders between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sept. 10, spokesman Brock Murphy said Thursday. Prospective bidders may examine the merchandise the day before and morning of the auction.
Murphy, a spokesman for the Gaineses and their Magnolia attractions around Central Texas, said the couple and their companies support efforts by Mission Waco and its founder Jimmy Dorrell to address the food desert in the area surrounding the Mission Waco complex at North 15th Street and Colcord Avenue.
Mission Waco reportedly is within $28,900 of reaching its goal of raising $488,000 to transform an old Safeway building into a grocery to open by fall. With the pledge from the Gaineses, the magic figure could be reached. Clark Auction Co. also agreed to donate 5 percent of its proceeds from the Elite Cafe auction to Mission Waco.
Already such heavy hitters as Wal-Mart, H-E-B and PepsiCo have donated to make Jubilee Food Market a reality. The public has gotten involved by buying symbolic shares in the project, which will give the impoverished a chance to buy grocery items at reasonable prices without having to travel more than two miles to a full-service store.
Dorrell said the gift from Chip and Joanna Gaines is coming at the right time, as it should wrap up fundraising for the building itself and allow him and others to pursue about $75,000 to buy merchandise to stock the store for an opening on or about Oct. 15. He said he already has received $50,000 in donations to stock the store.
Dorrell said he knew the Gaineses before they became stars and even persuaded Joanna Gaines to model for a style show he promoted.
“There are so many demands on their lives that the fact they still care for the whole community, not just their world, is really significant,” Dorrell said.
He said dust is flying at the 6,500-square-foot construction site, with more than a dozen people working there most days. Ed Mazanec, with Mazanec Construction, is serving as general contractor at no charge, using his contacts and familiarity with the local construction scene to find materials and subcontractors.
Dorrell said he was facing a dilemma when his first general contractor unexpectedly gave up the job, leaving Dorrell to ponder who would supervise construction and attend to details he would never envision as a minister. Fortunately, Mazanec showed up at the job site, extended his hand with a greeting and told Dorrell, “My wife told me to come see you,” Dorrell said with a laugh, adding that his wife, Vicky Mazanec, was aware of Dorrell’s efforts to open a grocery store.
Dorrell said many of the workers at the store are donating their time or materials, helping the money raised go further.
Anywhere from 175 to 300 people attend auctions conducted by Clark Auction Co., spokeswoman Iris Clark said. Clark said she would hesitate to hazard a guess at the number of people who would visit Waco to buy items from something as historic as the Elite Cafe from sellers such as Chip and Joanna Gaines.
The Elite can trace its founding back 97 years, to downtown Waco. It later became a popular stop for motorists traveling between Dallas and Austin before Interstate 35 became part of the scenery of South Waco. A young soldier named Elvis Presley supposedly dined there while stationed at Fort Hood; generations of Baylor University students and their parents made it a traditional stop on football weekends; and local residents grew to enjoy the large country breakfasts, burgers, steaks and shrimp.
But it fell on hard times in recent years as dining competition grew in Waco. The Austin-based Ford Restaurant Group decided to close the place in February, and by March was receiving serious inquiries, Creed Ford III said. The Gaineses announced in May they had closed on a deal to buy it.
Murphy said though the contents of the Elite Cafe are being sold, the Gaineses fully intend to remodel it for use as a restaurant.
But Chip and Joanna continue to mull their options when it comes to determining the cuisine they will offer when it opens sometime next year.
They have done well turning the old into the new in other locales around town, converting old silos at Sixth Street and Webster Avenue into Magnolia Market at the Silos, a marketplace for home decor, furniture, food trucks and a bakery.