WACO, Texas – 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.
They’re an economic boom that’s better than an oil gusher, rippling through the town as their HGTV show, “Fixer Upper,” breaks ratings records. The show attracts one of the most upscale audiences on cable in the ages 25 to 54 sweet spot. Its second season, which aired earlier this year, attracted 24 million viewers.
Joanna is being called the next Martha Stewart. She has a huge following and yet-to-be-revealed interests beyond interior design, including a 350-piece furniture line that hits stores nationwide in January and ideas for food and entertaining.
Chip is the reason more men are watching a home design show — a smart, funny, approachable guy in a gimme cap living the American dream with a wife, four kids and a remodeling business in a medium-size city down in Texas.
Joanna’s dad says she was way too serious before she met Chip.
The chemistry between them is genuine and magnetic as they take houses that are ugly or in poor condition and save them, turning them into affordable dream homes for real families.
Waco’s Visitor’s Bureau gets daily requests, and not just from people planning to visit. In “Fixer Upper’s” third season, which begins Dec. 1, three of the featured couples moved to Waco because of the show. Waco hotels report that the frequency of visitors from New York, California and the Midwest has jumped since 2014, when the first season of “Fixer Upper” aired.
Chip and Joanna’s fame gives the outside world more to associate with Waco than May’s deadly biker gang shootout and the distant Branch Davidian siege.
Last month, at the big High Point, N.C., furniture market, orders from retailers for Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines exceeded expectations by tenfold, Standard Furniture told the trade press. The Alabama-based company is making the furniture. Gaines had 100 days to design 350 pieces, and Standard Furniture sent a staff to Waco to make sketches for her.
Magnolia Market will add a furniture showroom in January.
Considering that the first “Fixer Upper” season was last year, the couple is moving fast.
“There is a lot going on,” Joanna Gaines said. “But we believe in seizing the opportunities. We’re dreaming big, but we’re putting family first. Everything we do is based on that.”
Gaines said that when the couple married in 2003, they agreed to “plant our roots here and help make Waco grow.”
“We never thought it would be at this level,” she said.
As more businesses open in Waco, the Gaineses may help turn Waco into the next hot spot for shoppers.
“We’ve reached some kind of threshold with Chip and Joanna,” said Trent Weaver, who owns a 34,000-square-foot building in downtown Waco. “Other businesses are opening downtown, and people are living downtown in lofts above the buildings.”
Waco is suddenly cool.
The city is scoring more than your run-of-the-mill economic development successes.
Fans of the Baylor Bears can anchor their boats on the Brazos River next to a new $250 million football stadium, making it one of only two college towns where “sailgating” is possible. (Knoxville, Tenn., is the other.)
International award-winning Balcones whisky is being brewed in a downtown distillery.
Then there’s Chip and Joanna.
“It’s a perfect storm,” said Dale Fisseler, Waco’s city manager.
“People who have lived here 30, 40 years say there’s never been this much positive excitement,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with the show.”