“Watch Chip and Joanna Gaines. Only on HGTV.” That’s the teaser you’ll hear while waiting to start an episode of “Fixer Upper.” The voiceover doesn’t include the name of the show. The hook isn’t “Fixer Upper” — it’s Chip and Joanna, starring … Waco.
The show highlights aspects of our city we already know are pretty. The Suspension Bridge. Lake Waco. The Brazos River. Baylor University. Homestead Heritage. The gazebo at Poage Park. The Twin Bridges.
Then there are the things we don’t always think of as attractive. City Hall. The Waco water tower. The trains running through town. Barbed wire strung between fence posts. Even our grackles look good.
And then there is the beauty all around us we rarely stop to appreciate. Cool clouds. Waving windmills. Rolling farmland. A full moon. Decorative cactus. White crepe myrtles. Stunning sunsets and sunrises. Have you ever seen such handsome roosters? Such contented cows? Such happy goats, lounging on top of anything they can leap on to?
Wacoans have known Chip and Joanna for years. We knew them back in the day, back when they were flipping homes, when Joanna had her first retail store, when they made a name for themselves with renovations in Castle Heights, when they started Magnolia Villas, when Joanna held decor shows in her home. Here at the Wacoan, we’ve written a lot about the Gaineses, eight articles in all, and their work has been referenced in six more. Joanna’s column, “No Place Like Home,” has run 19 times in our magazine, she’s provided tips for home decorating in three other articles and she has graced our cover twice, most recently in September 2014.
If you see a Magnolia Homes black truck around town, you’ll notice its tagline: “Making Waco More Beautiful One Project at a Time.” With “Fixer Upper,” Chip and Joanna are making Waco more beautiful one episode at a time and now, one season at a time.
Our first-ever couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines are the 2014 Wacoans of the Year.
Neither Chip nor Joanna is originally from Waco, but as the saying goes, they both got here as fast as they could. He hails from the Dallas area and graduated from Grapevine High School, then came to Baylor University. During his business math classes, he would look out the window at the grounds crew, Waco Grounds Keeper, and think that they were probably having more fun than he was. He approached the owner and got a job driving around the crew that worked on campus. Chip did get through those business classes and earned his Bachelor of Business Administration with an emphasis in marketing in 1998. He ran several businesses after college, including a laundry service for students called Green and Gold Wash and Fold. He also ran a lawn care business, and his landscaping expertise is evident on every “Fixer Upper” episode, right down to the magnolia tree, which is gifted to each home.
Joanna was raised in Kansas, then her family moved to Austin and eventually to Waco her junior year of high school. She graduated from Waco Christian School. Joanna went to Baylor thinking she might pursue a career in broadcast journalism. She even interned for Dan Rather at CBS News in New York City. In 2001, she got her bachelor’s in communications.The couple met when Chip came to get his brakes done at the Firestone store owned by Joanna’s father, Jerry Stevens (now Firestone Complete Auto Care). After college, Joanna worked for her dad and even starred in some of the shop’s commercials. Chip’s pick-up line was, “Hey, you’re the girl in the commercials.” Believe it or not, that line worked. After dating for a little more than a year, Joanna and Chip were married in 2003. Now they have four children: Drake, 9; Ella, 8; Duke, 6; and Emmie, 4.
Their first project together was opening Joanna’s retail store, Magnolia. She had no background in interior design, and in those early days, she felt constantly challenged when clients asked her questions. She learned by doing. Within a month of getting married, she and Chip began flipping homes together. When the housing market changed, they changed with it and focused on home renovation. By the time HGTV found them, the Gaineses had more than a decade of experience in Waco’s housing market.
A stand-alone pilot for “Fixer Upper” aired in April 2013, and the 12 episodes comprising season 1 ran in spring 2014. The series has brought so much positive attention to Waco that on November 4, 2014, Waco Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. issued a proclamation in honor of the Gaineses and gave them a key to the city.
When our own Kevin Tankersley interviewed the Gaineses in November 2012, shortly after the pilot was filmed, Chip said the production company told them, “You guys have a really high threshold for chaos.” That’s a good thing because their lives have become even more chaotic since that interview two years ago. They have their family and their farm, their company and Joanna’s shop. They have the show, “Fixer Upper,” which is about to start its second season. And they have dreams that are still becoming real.
Magnolia Farms | Welcome to the Farmhouse.
In season 1 the renovation of the Gaineses’ own farmhouse was a backdrop to the other stories on the show. It was a natural fit because making homes beautiful isn’t just a job for Chip and Joanna. It’s their life. This is their ninth house in 11 years of marriage. They love fixer-uppers.
Magnolia Farms is the 40-acre residence where this family of six lives. The farmhouse itself has paperwork dating back to 1895.
After years of what Joanna called “spontaneous house jumping,” she longed for enough room to spread out. Chip had a secret passion to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, “the quintessential Marlboro man,” who had a ranch in Wichita Falls. Now the Gaineses have enough land to support an extensive garden and plenty of animals.
Garden: check. It’s approximately 600 square feet with two 30-by-8-foot-wide raised beds and a walkway of pavers down the middle.
“It’s bordering on the side where it’s too big, where I’m starting to need help. When you have that many tomatoes you have to pick, it’s like a full-time job,” Joanna said.
“We had a whole jar of jalapenos the other day,” Chip added.
“From one week, yeah,” Joanna said. “And it’s the same with the chickens. Every day now you come in with 30 eggs. We need to start our own farm business — veggies and fresh eggs. If we weren’t off the highway, we’d sell them in the front yard.”
Animals: check. In the first season of “Fixer Upper,” Chip brought home a lot of them.
“People are like, ‘Is it because the cameras are rolling?’ and I’m like, ‘Nope, that’s the story of my life. He likes to surprise me on a weekly basis,’” Joanna said.
The Gaineses have chickens, goats, cows, turkeys, horses, cats, dogs and bottle calves.
Which brings me to my favorite Chip quote from season 1, episode 8, when he surprised Joanna with a bottle calf she didn’t want.
He said, “Baby, listen to me. Any moron can raise four kids, 8 and under, do 14 remodels and — did I say raise four babies? Anybody can do that. We need some cows to keep us, you know, to fill up the dull time.”
Uh, Chip, what dull time?
Magnolia Homes | Southern Grown. Locally Sown.
Here’s the thing about Waco: Is it agricultural or urban? The answer is, it depends, and “Fixer Upper” shows both sides of our city. Do you want urban? Look at the show’s renovations in Brook Oaks and Sanger Heights. If you prefer rural, check out the Mahans’ home outside Robinson or the Jonklaases’ near Crawford. Then there’s the home of Dr. Marla Hendricks, next to Cameron Park. This gem in the heart of the city is not rural, but it certainly isn’t urban either. Which is it? Well, it’s Waco — full of unexpected beauty.
Here’s how Chip describes our city on Magnolia’s website: “Waco is … the land of opportunity. You want to make an impact? You want to make a good, affordable investment? You want a great place to raise a family in an up and coming Texas community? Come to Waco. Waco, Texas is like an IPO and now is the time to buy.”
With all the attention from “Fixer Upper,” people are taking his advice.Kadette Cooper Brown was Magnolia’s first real estate agent, joining the company in 2011. She’s one of those people who grew up in Waco, went away for college and early career and then came back. Magnolia Realty is still considered a boutique real estate company, one that wants to remain small. But that may prove difficult.
“They’ve gone viral. They’ve gone nationwide,” Cooper Brown said.
She’s not only talking about Californians who swoon over Waco’s home prices (although she admits to having California clients), but she’s also talking about real estate agents who have moved to Waco to work for Magnolia. They see Chip and Joanna on TV and think, “I’d like to work for them.” Of course, it’s not that simple.
“We’re not just taking on anyone who wants to be a real estate agent. A lot of companies like numbers; that’s not our focal point,” Cooper Brown said.
And then there are the out-of-state folks who want to move to Waco and be on the show.
“I’m dealing currently with a couple from Florida who wanted to be on ‘Fixer Upper.’ He got a job transfer [to Waco],” Cooper Brown said. “After looking at homes, the timing is not appropriate. They need something move-in ready.”
Cooper Brown described the “long, lengthy process” in which interested homeowners apply to HGTV: send in a photo of their family, a bio and a pitch — essentially, share their story. The homeowners must also have a minimum of $30,000 to put toward renovation. On the teaser for “Fixer Upper” Joanna asks, “Do you have the guts to take on a fixer-upper?” The answer for this Florida couple was no. But other people are willing to do it because they love the show, and they love Chip and Joanna.
“They’re charismatic. They have a beautiful family,” Cooper Brown said. “It’s the American dream, basically.”
Magnolia also manages Magnolia Villas, a collection of 37 garden homes in a pocket neighborhood off Bosque Boulevard and North 46th Street, near the Extraco Events Center. The villas, all zero lot line, come in four styles: The Classic, The Cottage, The French Country and The Residence. Two-thirds of the development is complete.
In 12 years of business, Magnolia Homes has renovated hundreds of houses and won local acclaim doing it. Joanna has won Best Interior Decorator in our magazine’s annual Best of Waco poll five times in six years — in 2013, she came in second — and Magnolia Homes has won for Home Remodeling every year from 2009-2014.
Magnolia Homes is a member of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and won the 2014 Chrysalis award, which recognizes the best remodeling projects in the country. Magnolia won for Best Kitchen Remodel, an award worth more than $100,000, for the green-tagged property belonging to the family of Charmaine Hooper and Chuck Codd. On episode 1, Hooper described Chip and Joanna by saying, “They can take crappy and make it happy anytime.” That could be a new tagline on the Magnolia trucks: “Turning Crappy Into Happy.”
Currently, Magnolia Homes offices on Lakeland Circle, but it will move to 3801 Bosque Boulevard when Magnolia Market moves downtown.
Magnolia Market. | Home. It’s your space. Own it.
The Gaineses have purchased 2 1/2 downtown acres at Webster Avenue and Sixth Street, the lot with the two 120-foot silos built around 1929 that once belonged to Brazos Valley Cotton Oil Co. The project will be done in phases, with phase 1 completing in spring 2015. They applied for $208,376 from the Tax Increment Financing Zone toward the project, which will cost around $1.5 million.
The industrial barn on the property will be the new home for Magnolia Market. By moving to that location, the shop will be able to increase its square footage from 1,600 square feet to 4,000 square feet.
The other 12,000 square feet in the barn will host Joanna’s new monthly trade days market, drawing vendors from across Texas. If you are familiar with the crowds that trek to Round Top or to Canton’s First Monday Trade Days, imagine those shoppers flocking to downtown Waco, eating at one of the local food trucks Chip and Joanna have already lined up and listening to Waco musicians perform live on an outdoor stage.
How do you like Waco now?
To see how Chip and Joanna renovate the silos, you’ll have to wait a little longer. That’s phase 2. After some discussion, the Waco Downtown Development Corporation agreed to let the Gaineses leave the silos unpainted. To celebrate, Chip and Joanna climbed to the top of the silos and christened them with a bottle of Dr Pepper. Joanna and Chip hope the renovation of the property will be part of season 3 of “Fixer Upper.”
Joanna first opened her retail store in 2003 after she and Chip got married. She closed the store in 2005 to spend more time with her children but reopened it in January 2014. During those in between years she kept her hand in retail by hosting trunk shows two or three times a year. Wacoans who attended those seasonal events and relied on them for hostess gifts or unique decorating items can now shop in the store or online, just like everybody else.
Since “Fixer Upper” began airing, Magnolia Market has seen more customers come from out of town, people who exit off Interstate 35 because they’ve seen the show. That makes Joanna’s shop a tourist destination, and those visitors want to know where else they can shop.
Some of them visit Papillon, an antique store owned by Mary Helen George.
“We had a lady from California come in our shop. She was just bubbly. The day after we had a woman come in, and this lady was from the East Coast,” George said. Her store and others get a bump from “Fixer Upper” tourists who shop at Magnolia, wander around town trying to spot houses from the show and then shop at other venues, like George’s store.
“While they’re in town, they’re gonna come to other stores and shop,” she said. “And they buy things.”
Another store they’ve come to — stores, actually — is Covet Antiques & Treasures and The Blue Horse, both owned by Staci Willis Hines. Some of her customers have told her they are vacationing in Waco.
“Lots of ladies or husbands and wives — couples — that make day trips or make a weekend of it — do the Waco weekend,” Willis Hines said, noting that some of these “Waco weekend” folks drive and others fly in.
“Some people have talked about moving here. Some have talked about buying a second home here. They like the fact that it has a small-town feel but has the amenities of a larger city,” she said. “I’ve even had several people tell us [Waco has] some of the best antique shopping they’ve ever seen.”
This is the Magnolia effect. When Magnolia does well, everyone does well.
Take Clint Harp, the carpenter whose work at Harp Design Co. has been featured in every “Fixer Upper” episode.
“I get choked up when I talk about the effect it’s had on us. For us, it’s just meant everything,” Harp said. “I literally met Chip at a gas station, and the rest is history. I’ve told so many people the story, about how Chip helped me get my tools from my storage unit with his truck because I didn’t have a way to get them. Just getting my tools to the shop! They have been really instrumental for me in so many different ways, from just the bare bones, to getting started, to national exposure, which is insane. The fact that people know [Harp Design Co.] in New York and California and Vermont and Florida — that’s because of the show and our involvement with [the Gaineses]. I have absolutely zero problem with that correlation.”
Harp said Joanna has postcards displayed at Magnolia Market, listing other businesses visitors might want to check out. He said people show up at his shop with that card in hand. They love to talk about how inspiring the show is.
“So many people just love how upbeat and positive the show is and drama-less,” Harp said. “What’s scary is that’s just after one season. The viewership is only going to grow. Their exposure is only going to grow. I’ve watched HGTV long enough to know that this is just the beginning.”
The weekend of October 30-November 2, 2014, Harp Design Co. had a new beginning of its own. It opened its showroom, where tourists and locals alike can purchase furniture from the Magnolia Farms collection, “As seen on the HGTV’s #1 Show ‘Fixer Upper!’”
It’s not only decor and furniture shops that get a bump from “Fixer Upper.” HGTV mandates that all labor be sourced locally, so the next time you watch the show, notice the names on the vans and work trucks. Season 1 included Gross Yowell, A&J Custom Cabinets, Wood-Tex Products, Tri-Supply, Stars Over Texas Metal Art and more. Many flooring materials came from Design SuperStore, and if you visit its website, you’ll find links to products that have been featured.
Here’s another aspect to the Magnolia effect. People who watch “Fixer Upper” are also looking at what Joanna is wearing.
The “shop” area of the Magnolia website has a section called “Shop Joanna’s Jewelry.” Her jewelry is designed by Summer Ellis, whose shop, Summer Ellis Bijouterie, is located downtown.
“Joanna carried my jewelry in her store when she first had the retail store. When she closed the shop, she kept buying personally,” Ellis said.
The necklace and bracelet with the word “radiant” were pieces Joanna asked Ellis to design in honor of Psalm 34:5, “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”
“She said, ‘Hey, this verse is really meaningful to me,” Ellis said. Those two items are exclusively sold through Magnolia.
When Joanna wore a feather necklace by Ellis in season 1, people came to Ellis’ website to look for it.
“It’s helpful that people really do recognize, ‘Oh, that’s Joanna’s necklace,’” she said.
Chip and Joanna have a heart for Waco and its local businesses, Ellis said, and they want them to benefit from the show.
“It’s allowing for people to see Waco as the treasure that it is,” she said. “I think people are watching this show, and instead of going, ‘oh, Waco,’ they’re like, ‘Oh! Waco!’ People who don’t know who I am, they’re like, ‘You’re from Waco? That show ‘Fixer Upper’ is from Waco!’”
Another local boutique getting some love from “Fixer Upper” fans is Roots Boutique. Joanna can be seen wearing clothes from the shop on TV, plus Roots is one of her blog sponsors and is included on the “Joanna’s favorite stops in Waco” postcard.
“Fixer Upper” | Real Estate. Construction. Design.
When viewers see that red star and the words “Fixer Upper” flash on their screens, they know they’re in for fun — oohs and ahhs at the house transformations and chuckles at the teasing between the hosts. It’s the dynamic between Joanna and Chip that truly makes the show.
Chip and Joanna. They’re like peanut butter and jelly. Or since this is a home improvement show, they’re like the chain saw and the hand sander; he likes to tear stuff down, and she likes to gently distress new pieces to make them look old.
The Magnolia website lists job descriptions for each:
Joanna Stevens Gaines: Lead Designer and Owner. The Face and Talent.Chip Carter Gaines: Construction/Real Estate Lead and Owner. Also the Face and the Brawn.
You could also refer to them by their hidden talents, the juggler (Chip) and the back handspringer (Joanna). When Joanna was profiled in our “Keeping Balance” feature in September 2014, she said, “I wouldn’t even call it balance. It’s doing the best you can with where you’re at.” What Joanna does, with her marriage and her kids and her farm and her shop and her appearances and her downtown venture and all the other things she’s doing that you don’t see on national television, well, that’s like one back handspring after another, all the way down the field.
When it comes to shopping, they both like to shop, and they both like a bargain. But Chip’s favorite place for unexpected finds is an auction, and Joanna’s is an outdoor market with some antiques and some items other people might consider trash. Because she can see beyond appearances.
Since “Fixer Upper” premiered, more than 10.3 million people have watched it, mostly upscale women in the coveted 25- to 54-year-old range. The first season drew 2 million viewers each week. Season 1 is also in reruns and can be downloaded on a variety of streaming services. When season 2 premieres, new episodes will run on Thursday nights at 8 p.m.
In season 1, most of the featured homes were in the Waco city limits but also included Crawford, Robinson, West and Woodway. Season 2 will travel to Clifton, Hillsboro and Lorena. In an August 16, 2014, article for DFW.com titled “Waco Couple on ‘Fixer Upper’ Are Self-Made Stars,” writer Gaile Robinson referred to what Chip and Joanna are doing as “the Magnolia-fication of Central Texas.”
We can only hope.
As I rewatched the first season, I noticed Chip and Joanna growing more comfortable in front of the camera as the season unfolded. They tease. They flirt. They hug their children. They both act silly (not just Chip). Best of all, they speak Texan.
When you live in the Lone Star State all your life, it’s easy to forget that not everyone talks the way we do. Even folks who don’t have much of an accent still use words or phrases not commonly heard elsewhere. But on “Fixer Upper” you can hear people say “okey-dokey.” Or refer to a pond as a “tank.” Or use my grandmother’s favorite word for your posterior, “hiney.” One of my favorite moments from season 1 was when Chip and Joanna pulled back the photo screen to reveal the renovated French Country house, and homeowner Michelle Sanders responded with a heartfelt, “Dang!”
And “dang” is the best word for the national exposure the Gaineses are receiving. Joanna has contributed to HGTV magazine, and she’s written for HGTV’s “Design Happens” blog as its newest guest editor. Last month when HGTV unveiled its new and improved website, guess who was chosen to be on the front page? The stars of “Fixer Upper,” Chip and Joanna.
Lately they’ve been taking this show on the road. On July 31, they appeared on the “Today” show. In September, they were at the 28th annual San Antonio Fall Home & Garden Show on the Celebrity Stage at the Alamodome. In October, they traveled to Florida for the Orlando Home Show. They were first on the list of Celebrity and Expert Appearances. They have two more home shows scheduled next year. But their focus is shifting.
The Magnolia Mom | Get inspired. Get started.
The Magnolia Mom is how Joanna is known on Facebook and Twitter. It was also the name of her original blog. It represents who she’s been, who she is and who she’s becoming through this experience.
The event was promoted as “An Evening With Joanna Gaines.” Of course, Chip was there, too. When he took the stage with his chain saw, women screamed. Based on the success of that night, there will be more workshops.
“Wife. Mom. Renovator. Decorator. Shop owner. Homebody.” That’s how Joanna describes herself on Instagram. Note the word “homebody.” Traveling is hard, especially when you’re leaving behind four kids. So on October 30, Joanna held Magnolia’s first Fall Workshop at The Phoenix Ballroom, to see what it might be like to do a seminar in town. It sold out in three days — for 600 people.
Who knows what will happen next? Who could have ever predicted what has already come to be?
I went back and read some of Joanna’s early blogs, including this one from October 19, 2011. She quoted Isaiah 43:19, “Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” Then she wrote, “Focus on the things in front of you and all around you. Enjoy and rest in today and embrace all that is good, lovely, and pure. Allow yourself a fresh start today …
And maybe bake some cookies for your babies today! All the smells and tastes you create are what makes home for your children.”
Since Chip and Joanna have lived in Waco for a while, they have a lot of reasons to love it. In our annual “Reasons to Love Waco” article, Joanna’s reasons have included Antioch Community Church, D’s Chicken Delight, Lake Air Little League, Lula Jane’s, Vitek’s and Bonnie’s Greenhouse. But my favorite of her reasons appeared in 2012.
“The People: My husband and I have been Wacoans for more than 15 years now, and we still hear it from outsiders: ‘Waco? Waco?’ We have found that what makes a person love a town is far beyond its name, location and, in our case, its misconceptions. I have also met plenty of people that live in Waco that still wonder why anyone would decide to stay here. All I have to say to them is this: Get to know Waco. Get to know the people who risked everything to start a business and support them. Get to know the restaurant owners who have chosen to go up against the monster chains and eat there. Get to know the people who give of their time so that they can give it to others and serve with them. I guarantee after you get to know the heart of this town, you will love it, too. It’s the local people that make the difference!”
Those words sound prophetic now. Because one of the things Chip and Joanna are doing on “Fixer Upper” is showing the nation how wonderful Wacoans are.
We always say it, but this town really is a great place to raise kids. Waco is full of people who care about family and education and small business and the arts. We are people of faith. Resilient people. Friendly people who say “y’all” and mean it.
Chip and Joanna are indeed “making Waco more beautiful one project at a time,” one silo at a time — two, actually — one episode at a time. Waco is on national television, not for tragic news and not even for Baylor’s glory but for its own intrinsic beauty. Even beauty we didn’t see.
Megan Willome spoke with Chip and Joanna at the Magnolia Homes office. Their daughter Emmie came in with Chip but then left with a Magnolia employee to color during the interview. Even when the Gaineses are not being photographed, they wear Waco — Chip had on a ball cap with the Magnolia cow logo (Magnolia Farms has its own apparel line), and Joanna wore a Waco T-shirt.
WACOAN: Do you still not own a TV?
Joanna: We don’t have a TV.
WACOAN: So have you ever seen the show?
Chip: We go on date nights and check it out.
Joanna: Thursday night became like our date night, where we would meet up with friends and have a little watch party. So it became an event for us. We loved every Thursday night because we got to get together with friends and then watch the show.
WACOAN: Have the kids seen the show?
Chip: A couple times. The first [part] of the season it aired at 10 o’clock our time, then halfway through they dropped us to a prime-time slot, so it was like 8 o’clock our time. And so I think they saw a few of those later [season] episodes, if I remember right. And then they rerun them. It seems like they would run them Sunday afternoon at a particular time, and we’d go over to some friends’ house and let the kids go and watch every now and then.
WACOAN: It seems like they usually do it in a block, too.
Joanna: Like a marathon.[The kids] don’t seem —
Chip: Phased by it.
Joanna: Yeah. [They’re like,] ‘Can we go outside and play?’ Which is great. I don’t think they understand what’s going on yet. So it’s fine.
WACOAN: The hardest part of writing this article — and I’m sure it’s a tiny glimpse into your lives — is that the story changes every day. For example, last night you closed on the silos?
Joanna: Closed on the silos yesterday [November 3, 2014]. So it’s official. We are now moving forward. We met with our contractor this morning, just ironing out all the details, and hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we’re gonna start on construction.
WACOAN: Explain what’s moving where.
Chip: We’re gonna do a little musical chairs here for the next couple of months.
Joanna: The market, which is the retail, is gonna move into the big space [the industrial barn]. The little building on the corner [formerly Rosetree Floral Design], we have some things in the works. That’s gonna be something great —
Chip: We’re just not sure what. We don’t know if it will be T-shirts and little odds and ends for folks that come from out of town, or it could be something as romantic as a bakery or a little coffee shop or something like that. A couple of options there.
Joanna: It’s still very surreal to us. Even when we closed on the silos, we were like, ‘We just closed on the silos.’ Six months ago that was a dream that I literally was like, ‘This is too big.’
Chip: Things are moving so fast. It’s opportunity of a lifetime after opportunity of a lifetime. You can hardly even stop to celebrate it.
WACOAN: Chip, the other day you tweeted the country song lyrics, ‘Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.’ What happened? Because that’s exactly what you’ve done out on the farm.
Chip: Yeah, my mom, right after that she texted me. She was messing with me. She goes, ‘Well, it obviously didn’t work.’ She gave me a pretty good time about that. She said she didn’t do a very good job of making that stick.
I was telling Jo, I don’t know why I did that as far as the tweet was concerned.
Joanna: He was just humming the song and thought it’d be a brilliant tweet.
WACOAN: But that side of Chip is one of the fun parts about the show.
Joanna: Chip is kind of all over as far as what he enjoys doing. He loves business. He loves construction, but he also loves the farm. It’s kind of nice to have him around because he can help with everything. He’s just one of those guys who, to me, he just knows a lot about a lot of things.
Chip: Jack of all trades, master of none.
WACOAN: Let’s get back to Magnolia Farms. How many animals do you have total?
Chip: Sixty animals! That was a trivia question in one of our speeches the other day that won some guy in Florida a hat.
Joanna: Sixty and counting. If it weren’t raining today, Chip would have been at the cattle sale.
WACOAN: Chip, did you bring home strays as a kid?
Chip: That wasn’t really a thing of mine. I don’t know why I’ve gotten into this recently.
Joanna: Well, when you live on a farm, you have 40 acres, you think you’ve got room for a lot of animals, and you forget you have to take care of them. And that’s where it gets a little harder.
Chip: She gets frustrated.
Joanna: Because I’ve got four kids.
Chip: Those two ‘goat dogs,’ sheep dogs, if you will, Pyrenees and Anatolian shepherd mix. They were literally these white little Q-tips in one of the episodes [in season 1]. Now they’re these giant 80-pound dogs.
WACOAN: Have you had success solving your coyote problem? I saw on social media that they were bothering your goats.
Joanna: We put the animals up at night, and we have a really good fence.
Chip: The bad news is I gotta put [our animals] in this corral every night. But I did finally get me a coyote a couple weeks back, and so I’m optimistic that that might keep us from losing any more goats in the near future, hopefully. I don’t know if just one’s gonna do it.
Joanna: I sleep better at night when I know those animals are locked up. Because it was literally, [the coyotes] come at midnight and 3 in the morning.
Chip: The dogs are barking.
Joanna: I’d go out there with my big old Wellies and start yelling, but I thought, ‘What am I gonna do?’ So I’d go back inside.
Chip: What are Wellies? Those big rubber boots?
Joanna: Yeah, yeah.
WACOAN: How big is your garden?
Joanna: The garden is pretty big. It’s bigger than this room. Probably too big for a family garden, honestly.
Chip: Yeah, but considering we’ve got 40 acres, I’d say it’s probably a little bit on the small side. So it’s kind of between those two, yeah.
WACOAN: I read that your kids sell the produce. Where do they do that?
Joanna: They bring them up to my shop.
Chip: They get a kick out of that.
Joanna: If they pick them, I let them sell them.
Chip: We used to live over in Castle Heights. When we bought the farm, it took us about a year to get all the renovations done. We’d go out to this family garden and pick up all these eggs and all these vegetables and haul them back to Castle Heights, and then on Sundays [the kids] would walk up and down Austin Avenue and sell all these to the neighbors. They got a kick out of it. We’ve still got some neighbors who give us a hard time and say, ‘We miss our fresh eggs! We miss our fresh vegetables!’
WACOAN: I’ve heard you might one day put in a ball field.
Joanna: You know about that?Chip: If I build it, they will come! I’m gonna try to get something like that online in the next year or two. With all the things moving at such a fast pace, you know, it’s really funny, we still don’t have a garage. Our farm is beautiful — a masterpiece in my opinion — but we always laugh, ‘We don’t have a garage!’ The baseball field will be our next project out there.
Joanna: Garage first, then a little ballpark.
WACOAN: How has Magnolia, the company, changed since ‘Fixer Upper’ started?
Joanna: What’s kind of complicated about that is there’s branches, right?
So the real estate company, it’s got a lot of phone calls that come in every day from the show, people literally saying, ‘We’re looking for a house in Waco, Texas.’ So we feel like the real estate side is boom.
Then we’ve got our homes business. How that’s changed is we’re now just doing the renovations for the show. When we’re doing eight at a time —
Chip: Our clients are still our clients, but we’re basically servicing them through the television show. So it’s been a bit of a Catch-22 because we have had to tell some people no, if they’re just doing a typical kitchen remodel or an add-on of some sort. But it has increased the people who’ve called us saying, ‘Hey, we’re wanting to buy a house, and we’d like y’all to do the renovations.’
So I would say our construction company is very similar to the way that it was prior to the television show, but our real estate company, which is actually real estate transactions — we’re buying and selling properties on behalf of clients — and then Jo’s retail business have really exploded.
WACOAN: Tell me more about the Fall Workshop because as I’ve talked to people who were there or whose businesses were impacted by it, I’ve realized this was a lot bigger than I first thought.
Joanna: Honestly, we came up with the concept a couple of months ago. Some of the girls at [Magnolia Market] said, ‘Hey, Jo, we’ve got a lot of people asking if Jo does public speaking or anything.’ And so they came up with this concept where we’d basically sell these tickets, do this event for one night, and I would give a speech and also give a little workshop on how to set a table when you have gatherings and talk about entertaining because we’re going into the holidays. And kind of try to inspire women because this is just a crazy season, but how do we step back? One of my biggest points was when you are around a table with family and friends, time seems to stand still.
Well, we put it out there online, tickets for sale. I originally told the girls, ‘Let’s have it to where there’s 50 women because I don’t want it to be too big.’ And I honestly thought only 20-30 will come. I was completely going, ‘I don’t want to put it out there where it’s too big and then no one buys a ticket.’ But the ticket price, just because of the cost of the venue and all the workshop stuff that was involved, these were over $100 tickets because we wanted to do it first class.
Chip: Dinner, you served food.
Joanna: But we also had things you could take home with you.
WACOAN: It sounds like it was a seminar.
Chip: It was, like a craft seminar.
Joanna: Yeah, like a little workshop. So the girls said, ‘No, let’s start with 300-400.’ And I was terrified. The day they put it out there, I didn’t want to look at the numbers. But within three days we bumped it up to 600 people, and we sold out in three days. And what was fascinating to us was so many people —
Chip: There were 350 from the state of Texas —
Joanna: Dallas, Houston, Austin —
Chip: And 250 were from outside the state of Texas, either driving or flying into Waco.
We had a good time at the event. We gave away a couple of gifts for the folks that had traveled the farthest. We had Fargo, North Dakota. We had Connecticut. We had New Jersey. We had three or four from California, three or four from New York. Just about every state in the union was represented. Seattle, Washington, was the farthest travel. We’ve got this smart guy that helps us, and I called him up on stage —
Joanna: He was trying to calculate who came the farthest.
Chip: He’d Google it. He’d check the places as they’d tell where they were from.
Joanna: The one thing I told the girls when we were setting up is, ‘I want to meet everybody who comes.’ I mean, the fact that they’ve driven here or flown here, I want a face-to-face. So I got to meet, I feel like, the majority of the people. We set it up to where I got to take a picture with them and just get to know them just real quick, ‘Where’re you from? What’s your name?’ Because a lot of these people, I feel like we interact with over Twitter or even Instagram, and putting a face with these names, it was just really fun. The support —
Chip: Overwhelmed us.
Joanna: Blew us away.
Chip: Because with that many people, it wasn’t perfect, you know? Some ladies were crushed a bit [in a corner]. But they were all like, ‘We’re fine.’ We had a couple of people around the perimeter that had to makeshift a bit, but they were still very gracious.
Joanna: It still doesn’t feel real. When I think about it, it still feels like a dream. I joked when I got on stage, ‘I feel like a little girl at a really big birthday party.’ We just felt loved — loved and supported.
WACOAN: So I guess you’ll be doing this again?
Chip: That’s the plan. We’re gonna try and maybe plug in a couple of those a year. Instead of us having to travel to speaking engagements outside of Waco, we’re deciding, in theory, that we’d like to put these opportunities together.
The thing we love about it and the thing we love about the show is just the encouragement we get about our beautiful little town. We’ve always known this, and I think a lot of people that are longtime Wacoans know what a great town Waco is. But the rest of the country has thought of it as a negative. Now it’s just been a breath of fresh air.
Joanna: All those women [at the Fall Workshop] were saying, ‘I’ve had the best day here in Waco!’
Chip: These out-of-towners come, and they spend money at our hotels. We’ve got dear friends here, from Jill Mashburn, who started Common Grounds by Baylor and now it’s operated by a kid name Blake Batson. And then our good friends, Julie and Jason Keith, who [own] Vitek’s. [The out-of-towners] go to these restaurants and these coffee shops. I think it’s really allowing them to take back a little piece of Waco. And obviously, Baylor University and some of the things that we’re really proud of from that perspective — [McLane Stadium], Coach [Art] Briles, [Robert Griffin III] winning the Heisman a few years back. We’re not the only part of this equation. All these pieces of the puzzle seem to really be coming together.
You sandwich that by the reality of we’re between Dallas and Austin, which we honestly believe are two of the coolest cities on the planet, and it’s like Waco is destined for great things if we can just keep our heads on straight and keep pushing in the right direction.
WACOAN: In October, you were in Orlando, Florida, for a home show. Do you have any more celebrity appearances coming up?
Joanna: We have another home show in Kansas City and one in Minneapolis.
Joanna: I don’t know. We have two more home shows next year, but then after that we’ve decided to stay home —
Chip: To stop that.
Joanna: The weekends are when we recover.
Chip: That’s kind of our point to these local shows. If we can draw that to us instead of us having to chase it, it’ll be a win-win. I think it’ll be great for our local economy with the hotels and the travel and the restaurants, but then it will also help us with our family, and we can have the kids right there in our backyard.
It’s pretty exhausting. That [Fall Workshop] took a lot of effort and a lot of emotional resources from Jo. But I still would argue that it’s not any more than —
Joanna: As long as I can go home at night and be with the babies. It’s worth it just to be able to do that locally.
We have a few things we do with HGTV to promote the show, so we’ll be flying to a few fun places. That’s just part of it. But for the most part, we’re gonna try and hunker down as best we can because of our kiddos.
WACOAN: On the show, it’s evident that you have a good working relationship with your employees. What can you say about the people you work with?
Chip: In Jo’s business, which is the retail business, we [attend and regularly hire from] Antioch Community Church.
Joanna: We’ve got about 30 employees at [Magnolia Market], cute little Antioch-ers.
Chip: Those women that were at that event [the Fall Workshop], there were a bunch of women that blogged about it later, ‘What do they do, engineer these little angels in the lab?’ [from Jenn Moore’s blog, linenandgrey.blogspot.com].
I just step back, and we are so honored and so blessed by the reality that we’ve got Baylor University in our backyard —
Joanna: Great Baylor interns working with us.
Chip: We’ve got Antioch Community Church and all the leadership, people that we adore, friends of ours, and that goes way down the totem pole to these 20-somethings that just have these huge hearts. When they go and introduce themselves to these out-of-towners, those out-of-towners feel like they’re the only people on the planet.
Our construction business, we’ve had 10 employees for nearly 10 years. These guys have bent over backwards for us. They’re the best workers we could ever have hoped for in a million years, and we just love these guys like family. Our big dream would be to eventually evolve into a retirement state, where we’d have cabanas scattered all over our property and we all just live happily ever after on some acreage somewhere.
WACOAN: Chip, I’ve heard your pep talks described as ‘locker-room worthy.’ Is that true?
Chip: I really appreciated the girls [in the office] for saying that. I deal with an almost exclusively female staff. We’ve got a couple of guys that are the exceptions.
I really get kind of wound up, and anybody who knows me knows this is accurate. I’ve got poor bankers in town that have had to hear these speeches. I’ve got a couple of attorney friends that have heard these same speeches. I get so wound up, and then I always look up and these poor girls, just eyes as big as saucers and probably don’t even know what in the world I’m talking about, to some extent. I do have some legendary locker speeches, but I don’t know. I feel like it falls on deaf ears.
Joanna: They love it. They’re not used to that coach-y type. They’re probably a little more tender, so I’m always like, ‘Chip, these aren’t big old football players. These are young girls —’
Chip: I’m looking for a face mask to grab, chew someone out.
Joanna: They know Chip, and they know all he’s trying to do is encourage them and motivate them. They love him.
WACOAN: Magnolia is becoming a brand. How would you describe your brand?
Chip: Now that we’ve gotten into this, people talk about, ‘We want to protect your brand.’ It’s this business school jargon that people throw out.
For us, who we are is we’re a family. We’re passionate about our relationship, and we’re passionate about our family. And to be really frank, that’s it for us. If the business makes it or doesn’t, we’re gonna make it as a couple, and we’re gonna make it as a family. The fact that our business has catapulted us to this new limelight, the way I look at it, our brand, it’s almost like an entity in itself, and it’s capable of handling its own accord.[Looks at Joanna.] Is this weird?
Joanna: I wouldn’t go that deep, though.
I would just say for the brand part, what I’m hoping is when people see those [Magnolia] letters that Chip built for me in 2002 is it’s funky. It’s trash letters. Those letters were going to be scrapped.
So for me, when people see Magnolia, I hope they see beauty in unexpected things. Whether that’s in a fixer-upper that’s been on the market for three years or scrap letters or something I found at a garage sale and repurposed. Finding beauty in unexpected things.
Chip: Some of those houses —
Joanna: Seeing the potential —
Chip: Nearly demolished, and now when you go by, they’re heirlooms to those neighborhoods.
Jo, that was good. Sorry. You saved me there.
WACOAN: Do you feel like celebrities here in town?
Chip: Waco has really protected us in that. Even before the show, people knew who we were. Her dad with the Firestone store, and she was in some of the local commercials. We felt comfortable in this little town —
Joanna: We felt like we were in a small community.
Chip: We really felt like we were doing things to impact our city. Now that it’s blown up from a national perspective, I really feel like Wacoans have protected us a bit. When we go out to dinner, we get a lot more hi’s and how are you’s. But it’s not like people are asking for our photograph or asking for our autograph, where if we go to Dallas or any big city — the ‘Today’ show in New York City, people would flat stop us right downtown, ask us to take a picture, and I feel like to some extent Wacoans sort of already knew us.
Matter of fact, I was out the other night to dinner, and a guy, it was like he thought he knew me, but he never really engaged us. Later he tweeted, ‘Oh, my goodness. I was freakin’ out. Saw Chip and Joanna Gaines,’ but he said, ‘But I respected their family time too much, so I didn’t want to intrude.’
Joanna: When you’re in a small community and you have a local business, you have a lot of contacts. You know a lot of people. We already knew the community well.
Today we were at lunch, and I saw people taking pictures subtlely. I’d see us in the picture, and I’d be like, ‘Wait. They’re being sneaky!’ But it’s cute because they knew that we’re eating together as a family, so they left us alone. They protect us.
Chip: They’re not as aggressive maybe as they are in other places. It seems like they’re just proud of us.
WACOAN: You’ve said that right now your kids don’t care about the show. When they get older, what do you want them to think about all this?
Joanna: Right now while they’re young, we want to protect them from all this. I just don’t think they’re able to take in the amount, the weight of it. There’s a lot of weight when you’re watched on national television.
Chip: People expect things from you. They’re looking at you in a slightly different light.
Joanna: We’re trying to protect our kids from that.
Chip: And we try to use words almost strategic, like, ‘Hey, we’re going to work,’ and, ‘We’re working today.’ We use words to help it be a little more normal.
Joanna: And we give them our passion. We tell them, ‘Mommy and Daddy are doing this because we love to help people with their homes, but now a lot of people are watching,’ so that they don’t think it’s a fame thing. It’s more like this is what we love doing, we get to do it together, we get to do it on television. But we try to make the television thing not as big as, ‘We get to help people with their homes,’ so they get the vision of that.
WACOAN: Well, you’ve been helping people with their homes for a long time.
Joanna: Now they’re just adding some cameras in the mix.
WACOAN: Chip, I heard you say on one of the episodes from season 1 that when people buy a fixer-upper, it’s a leap of faith. Talk about how the show was a leap of faith for you. At the beginning you weren’t so sure it would even work out.
Chip: I thought there was something fishy about the whole idea of it. It was just a young lady that had found Jo via this blog [www.designmom.com] and said, ‘Hey, I want to get a video commercial of your family and a little bit about what you do,’ and it just didn’t seem legit for whatever reason. It was definitely a leap of faith.
That’s a great analogy and a great connection between the risk that families take when they buy some of these distressed properties and all the risk, the financial ups and downs, the variables that come at you at the speed of light. This has honestly not been much different. It’s been a big version of that.
We’ve had to learn about how to pick an entertainment attorney. We’ve got an agent now. Jo’s thinking about doing a book.
WACOAN: I wondered about that.[Joanna smiles.]
Chip: I know! Product endorsements. Commercials that they call ‘integrations’ that are basically commercials built inside an episode. Learning about elements of a universe that you didn’t even know existed, much less ever thought you ever would intimately engage with.
In that same context, it’s like a poor couple that buys one of these fixer-uppers, and we call them about a foundation issue or plumbing issue or electrical variable, and they’re going, ‘Ahhh! I don’t want to know any more!’
All that to say we really can relate on that level, for sure. We feel like God has a plan through all of this. We want to highlight our gifts and our talents in whatever capacity that might look like, and in this particular case it happens to be on national television on HGTV.
But we’ve gotten so much feedback from all over the country, generally, what a great designer she is, and generally, what I do from a contract standpoint. But the bigger picture and the more underlying, encouraging message we get is, ‘We just enjoy watching a family that really loves each other on television and a couple that can work together and play together.’ That’s been a real honor for us to watch that play out. And to get the response that we’ve gotten from it has been like a fantasy.
Joanna: Like a dream come true.
When we first got married, I never knew I loved the idea of design. Chip just had really great knowledge about flipping homes and real estate, but in that process is when I started coming to a style I felt comfortable with. Watching his deal and then seeing how it made me come alive from a design standpoint, where it was something I was never confident with. Me, design a home? No. Or even design a room. Now it’s become a passion over the years to empower other people in their homes.
In the early years it was one of those things that was in my gut. I kind of felt like God just kept saying, ‘This is gonna be something that I’m going to take to another level,’ and now I’m seeing it all unfolding, going, ‘Wow.’ Now not only do we get to help people in Waco with their homes but now on a national level we get to inspire people in their own homes, whether that be just painting a wall or doing a renovation.
We think home is kind of a big deal. If we can inspire people in their own homes, that’s huge for us.
WACOAN: Joanna, you’ve said that everything that’s happened is the fulfillment of dreams you’ve had for 10 years.
Joanna: That’s what I got to share [at the Fall Workshop.] I wanted to tell the ladies my story.
When we shut the shop down in 2005, I felt like I needed to stay home with the children, but I wrestled with that because I felt like it was letting go of our dream. That was the first thing we did together was our shop. But I felt like God said, ‘Hey, this is the season to be home, and you need to trust me.’ When I walked out that door to lock up for the last time, I was grieving, kind of saying goodbye. This was short-lived. It was fun. But I felt like God said, ‘If you trust me with your dreams, I’m gonna make Magnolia bigger and better than you could have ever dreamed.’ And I remember hearing that and walking away and really feeling peaceful, thinking, ‘OK, this is what I’m called to do. I’m gonna walk away.’
Now we’re in 2014. Nine years later. It was right. I could have never dreamed of a show, could never dreamed of Magnolia in the retail sense, where it is now with the online sales. Now we’re moving on to the silos. These are dreams I could never have imagined. It’s so above and beyond. It makes me smile every time I think about it. I love it.
WACOAN: Chip, did you have dreams?
Chip: Not like this. This is a universe that I never dreamt of. I never would’ve thought about HGTV. I never would’ve thought about the entertainment side of our industry. I wanted to be known as a businessman. That’s always been my objective and my goal. I feel really confident and happy that I’m portrayed in that light, but really, I say that I’m Robin to her Batman. What do you call that?
WACOAN: A sidekick?
Chip: Thank you, yeah. I’m a bit of a sidekick, and I like it because it gets to show my personality. I’m a pretty lighthearted, easygoing guy, and that comes out a lot in the show.
Long term, this is gonna be about her. We’re gonna make this a show about design, and I’ll make my play on the construction side and the real estate side and things of that nature, but it’s heavily weighted in design. It’s obviously in a pretty female-oriented industry, if I had to assume, with HGTV and its demographics.
Joanna: But what we’ve heard more often than not is, ‘This is the only show my husband will watch with me.’ And when you ask any guy, you want to say who the star of the show is, it’s Chip Gaines. Those men are waiting for the next thing — what is this guy gonna do next?
Chip: I’ve been real proud of Jo. We’re gonna build her up.
My big, big, big picture is there’s a void in the [lifestyle] market right this minute for a [young woman] like Joanna to step into. You’ve got Martha Stewart in her 70s, Oprah in her 60s, even Paula Deen [and] Rachel Ray in the cooking genre. I think there’s a real need for someone in their 30-somethings to fill this void. Now, Martha’s attracting women our mom’s age, maybe, and there’s this [generation] of people trying to figure out who they want to follow and who they want to listen to from a design and a lifestyle standpoint. So my big objective is to put Jo in that light to the best of our ability and see if there aren’t some legs there.
WACOAN: Joanna, is that OK with you?
Joanna: Mm hmm.
I think, yeah, in 2000, when I was in New York, I was doing broadcast journalism, interning for Dan Rather, and I really felt like God said, ‘You’re gonna have a platform one day with women.’ And I didn’t even know what that meant. I thought, ‘I don’t even have an expertise. Well, that’s gonna be interesting.’
Chip: She thought maybe in front of the camera, maybe a news anchor.
Joanna: Yeah. Now as a mother of four children, the thing that’s most important to me is creating this environment where my children thrive and my husband, when he comes home, he feels like he can relax and be home.
Because — and I say this over and over — it all starts at home. Obviously, it’s a heart deal, but it’s also a, ‘I want to try my hardest, and it doesn’t have to be exactly beautiful or magazine-worthy.’ When anyone puts their hands to a space and tries and is intentional with it, you’re always gonna win out.
Now I’m getting all these emails from moms, saying, ‘I changed my dining room into a playroom, and there’s nothing like watching my space come alive. I never entertained in that space anyways.’ Just getting these emails and encouragements from women all over saying, ‘I really feel like now it feels like home.’ And that’s important to me because as a mom, I want my home to feel like home. More than I want it to be beautiful, I want my kids to just love being home. I want them to settle well there.
WACOAN: When does season 2 air?
Chip: Season 2 airs in January 2015. We’re really excited about the new season. We’ve just sort of scratched the surface. This is just going to get bigger. Eventually, it plateaus off, and then you start going downhill.
Joanna: You’re old news.
Chip: We’re thinking, hey, two or three years of this, maybe run real hard at this, maybe see what we can generate from a publicity standpoint for our beautiful little town and hopefully bring a lot of people with us. I mean, Clint Harp has been in every episode and will continue to do so in the future. We’ve got a metal guy —
Joanna: Jimmy Don [at Stars Over Texas Metal Art].
Chip: And he’s really become a side character.
If we can advance Baylor University, Waco, Texas, Vitek’s, Common Grounds, Clint Harp, these entities —
Joanna: So many great things about this town that are hidden treasures, gems that are about to all get their time to shine.
Chip: We want to take as many of them to the moon with us as possible.