Fans of celebrity renovators Chip and Joanna Gaines on Monday navigated around fresh-poured sidewalks, extension cords and makeshift plywood ramps to get to their new Shangri-La of home décor.
Magnolia Market was finally open.
During an unannounced soft opening, an estimated 1,000 people poured into the old cotton oil mill at 600 Webster Ave., which is still under renovation as a shopping destination for products selected by the stars of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.”
Like pilgrims seeking relics, they hauled away blown-glass vases, rustic cutting boards, heirloom pumpkins, magnolia boughs and cut-metal plaques with feel-good sayings. They perused bouquets and wreaths made of cotton stems and bolls, at a business that once bought cotton by the wagonload.
Even those who missed the appearance of the Gaineses at the shop basked in the aura of their house-hunting heroes.
Frank and Dorinda Trevino, of Harlingen, were among about 100 shoppers in the store at midafternoon Monday. They were buying some stylish measuring cups on their way home from visiting family in Fort Worth, but they were really there to soak up the excitement. They expect to make Magnolia Market a regular stop.
“We’re big fans,” Dorinda said.
“They know how to take something that needs a lot of repair and work their magic on it, with some creativity and elbow grease,” Frank said.
Cathy and Charlie Dandel, of St. Francis, Kansas, made a side trip to Waco during their visit to Hillsboro, where their granddaughters live. “Fixer-Upper” fans who watch reruns between new episodes, they stopped by the old Magnolia on Bosque Boulevard and saw a sign directing them to the new mother ship.
“We were tickled to be here for the soft opening,” Cathy said. “We’ll be back.”
Their granddaughters, Makayla Burkett, 13, and Mackenzie Burkett, 11, said they also enjoy watching the show, especially to see Chip Gaines’ antics.
Outside, crews were striping fire lanes and putting down crushed granite for the large festival courtyard, which will feature music, food trucks and play areas.
A large area is already covered with artificial turf. Another section features raised garden beds maintained by World Hunger Relief Inc., which will offer educational workshops there.
The outdoor area is scheduled to open as part of the grand-opening weekend that starts Oct. 30.
Magnolia CEO Jerry Stevens said the Bosque store already draws 2,000 to 3,000 visitors a week, many of them from faraway states. He said that number should increase dramatically once the market is fully operational.
He added that Joanna Gaines will open her furniture showroom in January in the tall, steep-roofed building known as the hull house.
She is introducing her own brand of furniture with 350 different items this Friday.
Stevens, a former Fire-stone tire dealer who is Joanna Gaines’ father, said he never imagined a rusty complex of barns and silos in downtown Waco could become a nationwide draw.
“I didn’t see the vision,” he said. “I don’t see what (Joanna) sees. It’s the same with some of those old houses they go into.”
Downtown Waco development director Megan Henderson stopped by Magnolia Market a couple of times Monday and saw it bustling with people.
“I saw lots of happy people,” she said. “The people I observed were delighted. I overheard a lady say, ‘This is my dream place.’ . . . This isn’t just bringing people from London and New York, but some people from Hewitt and China Spring who may not have been to downtown in a long time. I think these people are going to be back.”
Henderson said she expects the visitors Magnolia Market draws will give new visibility to nearby businesses, such as CrossFit Waco, the Yoga Bar and the soon-to-open “Findery” in the former Percy Medicine building.
Brian Brown, co-owner of The Backyard Bar Stage and Grill at 511 S. Eighth St., said he and his partners didn’t know about Magnolia’s plans when they bought an old building to renovate.
But he said business has been good, and he expects foot traffic from Magnolia Market.
“There’s a lot of synergy here,” he said. “We’re really excited about Chip and Joanna being here. We have high hopes. We want this to be a destination.”