Downtown Movers & Shakers

By Caitlin Giddens and Kevin Tankersley

Two years have passed since our last list of Downtown Movers & Shakers was published. In the October 2014 issue, we spoke with Chip and Joanna Gaines about their recent purchase of a vacant lot on Sixth Street with two silos on it. Fast forward to today, and Waco now has a Silo District with tens of thousands of visitors to Magnolia Market each week, complete with a Silo District trolley providing public transportation throughout Downtown Waco. Who knew such transformation could happen in such a short time?

Actually, there’s a special group of people with a vision for Downtown Waco — we call them Movers & Shakers.

They not only create opportunities for people to shop, eat, live and play downtown, but they are catalysts, sparking change and growth in the heart of our city. In previous issues of the Wacoan, we have featured a total of 40 such individuals, businesses and organizations, most of which are still actively involved in Downtown Waco. This year we are adding nine Movers & Shakers to the list, including the Cultural District Task Force, which was instrumental in helping downtown receive its cultural district designation from the state of Texas. These people are the ones who dream and innovate, who believe we’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible in Downtown Waco.

David Mayfield

If you’re looking for a bottle of wine, you can go into any one of a dozen grocery stores or liquor stores and have your choice of a thousand bottles. So what prompted David Mayfield to open the Wine Shoppe, which offers maybe a hundred varieties?

“We try to show off the diversity of wine,” he said. “We have over 100 different [varieties of] grapes in 100 different wines.”

For instance, one of the wines Mayfield carries is an xarel-lo vermell, which comes from a rare mutation of grape. It’s rare indeed, as only five
acres of the grape is grown worldwide.

“It’s fascinating, very different. It’s not quite a white and not quite a rose. We’re always looking for diversity in wine,” Mayfield said.

The Wine Shoppe carries lots of European wines, from France, Spain and Italy, with a few from Germany as well. Some varieties from Austria will be available soon.

After Mayfield graduated from Baylor with a degree in international relations, he took a typical desk job, but it was while reading a book about wine that he had the idea to change careers. He and his wife, Abigail, packed up and moved to California for nine months, where they went through the wine program at The Culinary Institute of America.

“We tasted 30 or 40 wines a day for the whole program,” he said. “That expanded my knowledge greatly.”

Then they moved back to Austin, where he worked in wine retail for a while before starting a distribution business. After growing tired of the “traffic and chaos and all that was Austin,” Mayfield said, they moved to Waco and opened the Wine Shoppe almost two years ago.

Mayfield makes it a point to work with small growers, farmers with just a few acres of grapes, who still treat wine like the agricultural product he believes it is.

“We work with guys, their whole winery makes 3,000 bottles of wine for the year,” he said. “For us, it was about bringing it back to the farm. Wine wouldn’t be so interesting if not for the variety. The whole reason wine is so fascinating is because of the different varieties, all the diversity, all the regions. There are thousands of grapes, tons of regions. That’s what makes wine exciting.”

Brian Brown, Chris Cox, Russell Clay and Chris Braziel

The Backyard has only been open for a year, but it boasts an undeniable presence in Downtown Waco. The owners — Brian Brown, Chris Cox, Russell Clay and Chris Braziel — dreamed of creating a unique entertainment experience, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Most nights you’ll find musicians performing on the rustic stage or a game playing on the giant video projector. During the day guests enjoy a quiet meal beneath the shade of the oak trees.

“We want to take a different approach,” Brown said. “You won’t find this environment anywhere else in Waco.”

The Backyard has the “Austin or Dallas feel,” Cox added. But it’s right here in Waco.

“We’ve got everything you would want here,” Brown said. “You have music, but it’s also a peaceful place to study. And we have a really good restaurant.”

The owners poured their hearts into building The Backyard, but they also relied on the community’s help and advice.

“We called in a lot of favors,” Cox said. “It was a community effort.”

In their second year of business the owners of The Backyard hope to enhance the customer experience. They refuse to become complacent, like other bars, “who just leave the light on,” Brown said. But their focus on community will remain the same.

“Our goal is to have corporate consistency with a community vibe,” Brown said.

Blake Batson and Corey McEntyre

Blake Batson and Corey McEntyre, co-owners of Milo Biscuit Company, come from different backgrounds. McEntyre, a chef from Nashville, is known for hosting Kindred Event Studio’s Farm to Table Dinners. Batson runs Common Grounds and Heritage Creamery. Together they plan to make a culinary destination in East Waco with their brick-and-mortar restaurant.

“There’s a lot of work that’s already going on behind the scenes, getting us closer to that goal,” McEntyre said. “Testing recipes, plating, tables, linens, all the fun stuff. We’re shooting to open in mid-2017.”  

Batson and McEntyre have seen East Waco’s potential for years.

“There’s so much history, charm and infrastructure to build on,” McEntyre said. “We feel like it’s a great opportunity to help revitalize a historic neighborhood. The creative vibe you get when walking down Elm [Avenue] makes me think this is what Bishop Arts District [in Dallas], East Nashville, East Austin felt like a few years ago. We both see the same vision for this and want to see the city do great things.”

John David Beard and Dylan Washington

The owners of Pinewood Roasters, John David Beard and Dylan Washington, started their business two days after graduating from Baylor University. They started roasting in a small rented space in McGregor and only selling their coffee to local vendors. Then as their business grew, they moved into the same building as Alpha Omega on Franklin Avenue.

“We were planning on making maybe 40 bucks a day,” Washington said with a laugh. “We had no idea this would happen.”

What separates Pinewood is the roasting process. Beard roasts the coffee to achieve the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness.

“You test each coffee to see how it reacts to the roasting process,” Beard said. “We develop our coffee. It’s not what people are used to.”

The owners’ personalities complement each other. Beard, the reserved one, spends his days roasting in McGregor, while Washington, the more outgoing of the two, works the coffee bar.

“Roasting takes a certain type of person,” Beard said. “I don’t even listen to music. It’s just you working in your head.”

Beard and Washington call their current location a transient one.

“We wanted to be downtown, and we had a relationship with the Galanises [who own 1424 and whose daughter, Dorothy Lentis, operates Alpha Omega],” Washington said. “We’d like to have our own building soon. This has been a formative year. We’ve been learning on the job and focusing on our service. Coffee is no good without good service.”

Marshall Stewman

It’s not like you need any more reasons to head to Waco’s Silo District, with Magnolia and all its attractions as well as The Findery and The Backyard, but Marshall Stewman and his business partner, Peter Thyen, are renovating the former Morrison Supply Co. building at 300 South Sixth Street — where Sixth and Mary Avenue intersect — and turning it into a retail and dining destination. They’re hoping to have their new Mary Avenue Market open by this year’s holiday season.

“It’s an 11,000-square-foot warehouse, a pitching wedge [distance] away from Magnolia and all of its brands,” Stewman said. “But what we’re most excited about is the density that’s starting to pop up on the residential side.”

Stewman said four retail tenants are slated to have space on the northern side of the building, and the southern end will house about six food stalls, with a common area connecting everything.

While he wasn’t quite ready to name the retail tenants, he did say that one is a high-end women’s boutique and that two of them really need to be up and running by December 1 to capitalize on the Christmas season.

“We wanted to blend the lines between restaurant, retail and entertainment,” Stewman said. “You can come here and spend two hours instead of grabbing a fast food sandwich and leaving. [I can see] families hanging out with kids running around, maybe somebody playing guitar under this big pecan tree. It’ll be a family-friendly environment.”

Cultural District Task Force

On September 7 Texas Commission on the Arts unanimously voted to designate Downtown Waco a state of Texas cultural district. With this honor, Waco receives recognition on the state level, making the city eligible to apply for government funding.

The Cultural District Task Force worked on Waco’s application for more than a year. But according to Creative Waco executive director Fiona Bond, the coveted designation has been in the works for nearly a decade.

“You could say this all began under Mayor Mae Jackson,” Bond said. “There’s been a reinvention of what Waco is or what it’s always been but may have lost along the way.”

Bond explained the task force pulls together a “critical mass” of community members.

“It’s brilliant because they all bring different skills and perspective. It’s very representative of the entire community,” Bond said. “It also validates what we know Waco has become. Anyone who has listened to Waco Symphony [orchestra] or been to the Waco Cultural Arts Fest knows we’re a [cultural district] already. Even though we’re a small city, we’re punching above our weight.”

Melissa Pardun

Maker’s Edge is a community workshop, but it’s also a shared space for people to invent, build and learn. Co-owner and managing director Melissa Pardun created Maker’s Edge for everyone who wants to hone a craft — from artists to woodworkers to students.

“We put together the thinking and the doing,” Pardun said. “You don’t need to be an expert in everything. You can come here and learn. I’m really about helping my members meet their end goal.”

Maker’s Edge offers advanced technology, including 3-D printers and CNC routers, along with classes ranging from pottery to welding to woodworking. Pardun hopes the classes will encourage more people to use their hands and learn a new skill.

“You can’t design until you put your hands on things,” Pardun explained. “[Our society has] moved away from creating and into consuming. We think we need to find someone who is specialized. We think we need to hire someone.”

The clientele at Maker’s Edge varies from full-time artists to amateurs tinkering with tools. Members pay a monthly fee, similar to a gym membership.

“We have a lot of creative people looking for a place to engage their creativity,” Pardun said. “About half of our clientele is students because of the great relationship we’ve built with McLennan Community College.”

As a leader in community innovation, Pardun was invited by the Office of Science and Technology Policy to attend the annual Nation of Makers meeting at the White House.

“The Department of Education has a makerspace competition, so the White House wants to standardize what a makerspace is,” Pardun said. “It was an edifying experience. We’re all answering a different need, and the collective makes us better.”

Joel & Christin Peel and John & Genevieve Peel

Creativity runs deep in the Peel family. Joel Peel owns Hole in the Roof Marketing; his older brother, John, owns Sticker Universe; and the two brothers partner with their wives, Christin and Genevieve, respectively, to run Congress Clothing. The Peels started Hole in the Roof Marketing in 2001, and in February they moved their growing business to the historic McDermott Motors building at 1125 Washington Avenue.

“The truth is we tried to purchase the silos in 2012,” Genevieve Peel explained. “When the silos fell through — probably best for us all — I was driving a downtown route I had driven a hundred times and stopped at 12th Street and Washington. With new eyes, without the silo glint in them, I noticed the building was big and beautiful. There was plenty of space for parking. My mouth dropped at the tall ceiling, Italian tile from the 1920s and a ramp big enough to drive a car up.”

The Peels purchased the building in November 2012 and started renovations. They kept the giant indoor ramp from the building’s days as a luxury dealership and the open floor plan to accommodate more production employees.

“I believe operating in downtown and creating new jobs shows Waco that we are committed to its growth and prosperity,” Peel said. “Our desire to be downtown came from the entrepreneurial spirit in us to always make things better.”

The historic building is now home to four Peel businesses: Hole in the Roof Marketing; Sticker Universe, the largest producer of Baylor stickers; Labworx Golf, a custom putter shop; and it’s the office and stockroom for Congress Clothing. The Peels believe bringing employees to Downtown Waco will help the area meet its creative potential.

“The potential that downtown had at the time has come to life now,” Peel said. “We are honored to be a small part of this step in Waco’s history.”

Tiffany and Matt Fatheree, Marci and Kyle Davis and Melissa and Matt P. Fatheree

A few blocks from the Magnolia silos, further down Webster Avenue, stands The Findery, housed in the historic Percy Medical building. Although it’s only been open since November, The Findery has become a tourist destination.

“This is a good place to be,” Matt said. “Everything indicates that Webster will be a main artery in the riverfront development. There is a nice opportunity to be like Fredericksburg. We’re showing people that Waco is cool.”

Before The Findery opened, Tiffany ran Jute inside Spice Village. When the business outgrew the space, she looked for a larger building. She thought she’d find an old gas station or a small abandoned building. Instead, she stumbled upon the old Percy Medical building.

“It just had the right feel,” Tiffany said. “We knew right away that this was it.”

The Findery is a true family business — Matt and Tiffany own the business along with his sister, Marci Davis; her husband, Kyle; and Matt P. and Melissa Fatheree, Matt and Marci’s parents. The six owners work side-by-side and make major decisions together. They each bring a different perspective and style to the store, which is evident through The Findery’s diverse inventory.

“We all focus on our own things and what we enjoy,” Tiffany said. “It’s a one-stop shop. Our inventory changes all the time,
so you won’t find the same thing your neighbor found.”

With the influx of tourism in Waco, The Findery regularly sees out-of-town customers.

“We have people saying, ‘We can’t find things like this where we live,’” Melissa said.

Later this fall The Findery will open a 13,000-square-foot warehouse behind the store for warehouse sales.

“The warehouse is full of things people have found from around the country,” Tiffany said. “It’s a buffet, an eclectic mix. We want to continuously be creative.”

Curious to know who made our list in 2013 and 2014?

2013: 1000 Friends of Waco, Balcones Distilling, Baylor Stadium, Brazos River Partnership,, Deuxtone, Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits, Hotel Indigo, Jennifer Wilson, Mike Clark, Mike Trozzo, Nancy Grayson, Papillon, Peter & Summer Ellis, Shane and Cody Turner, Staci Willis Hines, Steve Sorrells, Urban Sustainability Accelerator, Vanilla Bean Bake Shoppe and Waco Downtown Farmers Market.
2014: Art on Elm, Baylor Club, Brazos Nights, Celebrate Waco, Chip & Joanna Gaines, Chris McGowan, Doreen Ravenscroft, First Friday Waco, Jimmy Dorrell, Leah Stewart, Leslie Henry, Michael Kornman, Outdoor Waco, RBDR Architects, Sergio Garcia, Tom Chase, The CAST, The Women of Austin Avenue, The Yoga Bar and Waco Transit