The Magnolia Market complex at South Sixth Street and Webster Avenue was a beehive of activity Thursday, as co-owner Joanna Gaines led media tours, cut a ribbon for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and predicted that about 10,000 people will visit the site during grand opening festivities Friday and Saturday.
Joanna and her husband, Chip, who have cultivated a cult following for their hit show “Fixer Upper” on the HGTV network, are parlaying their popularity into what they hope becomes a tourist attraction and a gathering place for families who want to shop for novelty items or furniture, listen to bands or dirty their hands in a garden.
“We want this to become a place where people relax, maybe throw down a blanket and just enjoy the setting,” said Joanna Gaines, who apologized for her husband’s absence, saying he suffered a minor injury while retrieving a toy for one of the Gaineses’ four children from the roof of their home.
“We’re medicating him and hoping he can make it here for the big day tomorrow,” joked Gaines, speaking to about 25 local and regional media representatives in town to capture the first hint of the official unveiling that will continue through Saturday and will feature special evening events to which 5,000 people have bought tickets.
Customer service representative Emily Hajovsky said guests from all over the country have made plans to visit Magnolia Market this weekend.
“A lot of people from the East Coast, especially New York and New Jersey, have bought tickets, as have quite a few from California,” Hajovsky said, adding that the public is invited free of charge from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday before the after-hours entertainment begins at 6 p.m. each day.
Visitors can enjoy the music of local bands; browse the 4,000-square-foot market filled with household items Joanna Gaines, a decorator, has chosen to include in the collection; and enjoy food sold by trucks bearing the names Luna Juice Bar, Common Grounds, Wood Fired Pizza and Cheddar Box, among others.
Part of the complex will serve as a showroom for Joanna Gaines’ new furniture line, which she discussed during Thursday’s tour.
“I’m thinking it will open in January or February,” she said of the showcase for her 350-piece selection to be manufactured in North Carolina.
Gaines said the items will have antiquish styling, but her goal was to offer a line that not only had a unique flair but carried a price affordable to most customers.
She said the line that comes out shortly after the first of the year will be complemented by fresh offerings in April.
Bright green artificial turf has been installed in strategic areas of the Magnolia Market complex where youngsters can toss a Frisbee or simply frolic while parents consider buying rustic cutting boards, old-fashioned alarm clocks, watering cans, pillows and cut-metal plaques with sayings such as, “I never met a pumpkin I didn’t like.”
Around back, near towering silos with a rusty and rustic appearance, a vegetable garden awaits digging by big and small hands.
“Don’t worry,” Gaines said. “We have a hand-washing facility for those who get a little dirty.”
Long term, the Gaineses “will do something special” with the old grain silos that anchor the corner. But for now, they will simply serve as a reminder of older Waco.
“For quite some time, they have stood tall, and they attracted me to this site,” said Gaines, adding their worn exteriors eventually will give way to fresh paint.
During an unannounced soft opening earlier in October, an estimated 1,000 people poured into the old cotton oil mill in South Waco. Magnolia CEO Jerry Stevens said the Magnolia store on Bosque Boulevard already draws 2,000 to 3,000 visitors a week, a number that should increase significantly at the new location.
Attracted by the “Fixer Upper” television show, fans from all over the country make their way to Waco to visit the hometown of Chip and Joanna Gaines, and to visit the Bosque Boulevard store, where they pose for photographs and swap stories about their favorite “Fixer Upper” episodes.
That location will close with the opening of the downtown complex, but Joanna Gaines assured she is pondering a future use for it.
Identical twins Chris Kocsis and Cheri McConomy, 52 years old, said they drove to Waco from Grand Rapids, Michigan, “on a whim” to visit Magnolia Market. They expressed excitement over the experience as they stood in line outside the remodeled complex early Thursday morning, awaiting entry.
Both said they have become fans of the show and the “family values and faith vibes” that Chip and Joanna Gaines exude.
“I think they already have given a tremendous boost to Waco’s cachet in the eyes of the country and the world,” said Megan Henderson, executive director of the Downtown Development Corp. “A synergy has developed between what Waco is like and the Magnolia brand. Magnolia is about authenticity off the beaten path, which is what you find when you come to Waco. They are not just selling something; they are selling Waco, and the value they add personally is incredible.”
She said traffic generated by Magnolia Market spreads throughout the community, especially downtown, benefiting other merchants.
“It’s not just about who walks through the door of the market, but also their hang time in the Waco market,” Henderson said.
Kathy Schroeder, a residential specialist at Coldwell Banker Jim Stewart Realtors, said it is surprising the number of prospects who relocate to Waco from other parts of the country because of the impressions they receive from watching “Fixer Upper” and Chip and Joanna Gaines.
“Their show features the pretty parts of Waco — the river, the beautiful farmland and parks — besides Chip and Joanna,” she said.
“We just can’t believe how many people from outside the state and from Dallas, Houston and Austin visit Waco just to be a part of our retail experience,” Joanna Gaines said. “It is so humbling.”