For many of you, the mention of Waco, TX means only one thing – Chip and Joanna Gaines. The wildly popular HGTV program has brought new notoriety (the good kind) to Waco. Of course the Baylor Women’s Basketball team winning the 2019 NCAA tournament also is good news! I decided I needed to go visit the mother ship of Fixer Upper.
The brand that the Gaines family has created for their remodeling show is one of country chic, understated earthiness, and simple but elegant decor. They recently have started offering a line of their goods in Target stores – pillows, objects for decorating, cooking items, baskets – the type of thing that Joanna selects from her warehouses of stored items, flea markets, and curiosity shops and refurbishes by her placement into beautiful accent pieces, unique shelving, distressed picture frames, and so on. I confess, I am a fan, but my minimalist lifestyle in my Airstream has no space or use for such lovely items. Frankly, I think we could all do with much less, but that is not the story here.
The brand this entrepreneurial couple have created is called Magnolia. The destination is Magnolia Market at the Silos. I don’t know all the history, but the result is brilliant. It conjures up southern charm, grace and elegance, but grounded. Joanna tells the story that she saw these abandoned silos in downtown Waco, next to the train tracks. She saw them as a beacon for her brand. She decided they should repurpose the silos into a Magnolia shopping and gathering oasis.
The success of this place is quite phenomenal. It’s been open for several years and it is the center of Waco tourism. It bustles with people. There are lines for the bakery. There are tour companies that will drive you and deposit you there before taking you to other Waco tourist sites (apparently there are some such as a beautiful bridge and walking area on the edge of downtown, Baylor University, and the Wooly Mammoth exhibit). For most folks, there is only one destination and it is Magnolia Silos.
I visited around lunch time on a Friday. I managed to find street parking a few blocks away, though there is a free shuttle that will take you there if you park closer to the convention center in downtown. The silos are readily visible, but it is inside the “park” that the beauty unfolds. The silos were not refurbished. They stand sentinel to what was once a thriving agricultural city, I presume. The freight trains still run through right behind the property. There is no admission and all are welcome to this inviting setting. The park is enclosed by shops, a food truck court, a garden shop, bakery, mercantile, gardens and is fenced. Inside the perimeter of buildings is a lovely, wide-open but manicured grassy area, an abundance of picnic tables, most with some shady covering (Texas is HOT in the summer), and lots of typical Magnolia design touches. I marveled at how well the space was functional as well as exuding a flavor, that all her houses exhibit.
The gardens are beautifully managed. Tulips were blooming in manicured beds along with chard and other leafy veggies. It is a working garden shop where you can buy seeds and other garden essentials like Magnolia pottery, garden shovels, and even bath products. The staff are very helpful, friendly, and the shop is tiny. This creates a problem because the Silos are extremely popular. The mercantile was packed and it is a huge store with two sections. Everything you could imagine that is used on the show is available to you here. From measuring spoons to wall art, souvenir t-shirts, feed-bag totes, Chip and Joanna’s books, caps – it’s all available for purchase for hefty prices. The economy must be good for the tourists buying this day because people couldn’t get enough. People were leaving the store with 2 and 3 shopping bags full. The brand is that popular and the look of the items is essential for many.
I spent a couple of hours on site and did buy a muslin tea towel with matching seeds in Sunflower motif. I have a friend in Kansas that really enjoyed the gift. I had great eats from the Magnolia Table food truck – MT is their Waco restaurant that is not at the Silos. The food I had was tasty and vegan friendly. What I noticed most is that people were enjoying themselves. It wasn’t just the shopping. It was the unhurried and settled feeling that I got while just being there. A lot of effort went into the design of this space. It is an unpretentious garden party that everyone can enjoy and did!