Like most of you, I've been watching the Fixer Upper phenomenon a bit from afar even though I live in Waco and have several friends who have either been on the show or are connected to the Magnolia juggernaut in some manner or another. In the months since the opening of the Magnolia silos, we have seen the company grow from (according to my sources) around 40 employees to well over 400 employees. We have watched as they went from a company primarily centered around real estate, home design and remodeling, and home building with a little shop on Bosque to a massive company that does all of that plus a much bigger storefront, a furniture line, a backyard food court for local food trucks, a recent purchase of the historic Elite Cafe, and most recently a brand new bakery.
If you are anything like me, you view things with a bit of skepticism. I have said many times that, in my opinion, the Fixer Upper craze has a shelf life of maybe 5 years, and I don't see how the silos will continue to attract the volume of tourists that we have witnessed in 2016. With that in mind, I never quite understood why Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of Fixer Upper and the heads of the Magnolia empire, would invest so much money into building something so dependent on tourists.
Don't get me wrong. I get the appeal of the silos, the back yard, the bakery, and all of that. I see why people who love Fixer Upper would want to travel half way across the country to visit our humble city and partake in all things Magnolia. I just didn't quite understand why the Gaines would keep spending so much money to make things so much bigger and better. That is, I didn't get it until I visited Magnolia Flour.
Yesterday, my wife asked me to stop by Magnolia Flour and pick up some cupcakes to bring home. As a local, my first inclination was to avoid the silos and especially the new bakery during the summer due to all the tourist traffic, but as one of the guys behind WacoFork (and because I'm the world's best husband) I felt it was my duty to stop by and check it out.
When I walked up, the line actually wan't too bad. I got there at a good time, though, because almost immediately 20-30 more people got in line behind me. I waited outside for about 5 minutes before finally making it up to the door and being let inside. When I got inside, the line continued, but it wasn't a long wait once you got inside.
It was inside Magnolia Flour when a lightbulb went off. They aren't building this big, great thing for Waco. They have a bigger vision than that. The attention to detail in the design of this bakery and the customer experience was impressive. It had Joanna Gaines' style written all over it. It was a warm and inviting place to stop in and get a cupcake or a cookie and a drink, and then hang out in the seating area just outside the bakery or in the silos' back yard. They aren't just building a tourist attraction. They are build a brand and an experience.
Thousands of tourists are visiting Waco every week this summer, and from what I can tell they are having a great experience. When they go home, they will tell their friends about the great time they had at the Magnolia silos visiting the Magnolia market and getting some delicious cupcakes from Magnolia Flour. They will forever associate the Magnolia brand with a great experience, and that is worth a heck of a lot more than the $500 they probably spent on a shiplap coffee table or whatever else it is they sell in the market.
Having experienced the market and the bakery, I can easily see this expanding to other cities all over the country. Imagine all the Pottery Barns all over the country having their own little bakery attached to them, and you'll get a picture of what I am envisioning. In cities that might not be able to support a Magnolia Market, the Magnolia Flour concept is good enough to stand on its own, and there are throngs of fans who would be eager to get some of Joanna's cupcakes in their own hometown without having to travel to Waco. Magnolia Flour might just become the Starbucks of cupcakes.
I still believe Fixer Upper has a shelf life of maybe 5 years like all of those types of HGTV shows, and I think that's why Magnolia is charging forward and growing as fast as they are. They are taking full advantage of the show's popularity to convert what was once a local brand into a massive global brand. It's exciting to think what Magnolia will be in 5 years, and we can all say we were in Waco where it all started.
One more bite
If you're a local who loves cupcakes, but you're still wary of braving the great Fixer Upper tourist invasion of 2016, you're in luck! Waco has lots of other great bakeries to choose from.
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