Even before its formal opening downtown, Magnolia Market was drawing to Waco a few thousand people a week, most from out of town, many from out of state, all caught up in engaging HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines’ seeming transformation of Waco, one ramshackle dwelling at a time.
Consider a story from an obviously impressed (and clearly excitable) Dallas Morning News reporter last week: “Chip and Joanna Gaines have put their stamp on Waco forever. This talented, driven couple and their cable TV show have harnessed the good life in this Central Texas college town and presented it to a national audience.” And so forth.
Yet by all standards of business savvy, the story should not end with the Gaines’ remarkable success showcasing the Waco area globally and expanding their home restoration business into a tourist shopping mecca at the twin silos downtown. Other businesses should likewise shift to an aggressive mode and imaginatively play off the Gaines’ ingenuity.
Example: The Backyard Bar Stage & Grill at 511 S. Eighth St., just up the street and around the corner from Magnolia, actually puts someone in a golf cart to ferry customers back to their parked cars and perhaps even ferry new prospects to the eatery. Given the fact parking is at a premium — especially with the Waco Regional VA Benefit Office and Magnolia nearby — the idea shows some smarts.
Upshot: If restaurants are going to spruce up their menus and train wait staffs to be more attentive, now is the time, when locals are rediscovering the delights of downtown Waco at the same time many visitors from afar are taking a longer look at our city, one that encompasses offerings beyond even Magnolia Market at the Silos. For instance, Portofino’s, an Italian restaurant at 725 Austin Ave., is now offering wine and beer to complement meals. Timely move. The same initiative should go for our other businesses — and not just the various culinary enterprises.
Synergy is critical, even if it might seem to shave profits from one: Magnolia Market, for instance, distributes maps of Joanna Gaines’ favorite local businesses, including Harp Design Co., which builds tables to suit demanding tastes.
At the risk of seeming self-serving, sharp-minded proprietors should faithfully consult Waco Trib, Act Locally Waco and Waco Convention & Visitors online sites to learn of events ripe for various specials and extended hours. Some restaurateurs appeared to be asleep at the wheel the night acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma packed the house at a Waco Symphony Orchestra concert.
All this goes back to a theme made often in these pages: the need for commercial proprietors to take care of business, stay attuned to opportunities and remember that business in a capitalist system always involves Darwinian competition, even for a power couple such as the Gaines. You can blame government for your misfortunes in business if you choose, but it doesn’t help if you’re brain-dead about seizing the moment when it arrives.