The Magnolia Experience
I like Chip and Joanna. I’m not a huge fan but I like them just fine.
I watched many episodes of their show back when they first hit the scene. That was before HGTV did what HGTV always does, take a popular show and run it into the ground by airing it in perpetual 24/7 rerun mode. The same thing it does with its sister Foot Network. Guy Fieri anyone?
By now most of you know I’m speaking of Chip and Joanna Gaines. I’d even venture a guess if I ask you what the first thing is that comes to mind when thinking of HGTV, Chip and Joanna might be at or very nearly at the top of the list.
Their show, Fixer Upper, became such a megahit that Discovery, Inc., HGTV’s parent company, didn’t just spin it off into another show, they spun it off into a whole network, renaming DIY Network the Magnolia Network with Chip and Joanna as partners.
Whether you love ‘em, hate ‘em or, like me, are somewhere in between, if you’re venturing through Waco, Texas, you gotta make a stop at what is properly titled, Magnolia, but as any fan of the show knows is better known as The Silos.
The Magnolia Experience
I worked in marketing for 35 years and occasionally taught college-level marketing classes on the side. Magnolia would be a great field trip for a marketing class.
I mean that in the most positive of ways. The entire place is designed to be much more than just another shopping center/mall/whatever, instead, it’s an experience.
They’ve even posted their mission statement right there on the wall inside the main Magnolia Market building, a very textbook marketing kind of thing to do. Though they don’t mark it as such, that is very much what it is:
“We believe in home, that it should restore us from today and ready us for tomorrow. We believe in friendship, because friends who feel like family are the best kind of friends and that nothing matters more than family. We believe in seeking the balance between hustle & rest and learning to find contentment in both. We believe everyone deserves a seat at the table and everyone has a story worth telling…”
So, what makes it an experience? First of all the entire place is immaculate. I could have eaten food right off the ground. I certainly wouldn’t have any qualms about sitting on the ground to eat.
Second is the way it’s laid out. Instead of a solid row of shops sharing common walls, there a number of different shops of all shapes and sizes, many of them original buildings.
Magnolia Market is the largest, a 12,000-square-foot store located in an historic grain barn and office building.
Nearby is the bakery, Silos Baking Co., a 100+ year old structure. A sign outside the shop lets you know the building was once a floral shop where, coincidentally, Chip often purchased flowers for Joanna when they were dating.
That’s another part of the magic, signs outside the various buildings fill visitors in on their history, making you feel your in some kind of historical village.
Just to the north of The Silos you’ll find Magnolia Seed and Supply where shoppers purchase gardening tools, pottery, and garden-related novelties. The building was part of the original Magnolia located elsewhere in Waco and relocated to The Silos in 2015.
Outside the shop is an actual garden, part of that experience thing I mentioned above. Gardeners work year-round tending to the crop, much of which is donated to charity.
By the way, the original Magnolia is still a part of the family. Now referred to as The Little Shop on Bosque, it’s about a 10-minute drive from The Silos and sells slightly dinged items from the main store and clearance items.
More than Just Shops
There are many, many more shops at Magnolia but I want to get to what else you’ll find there, that makes up the entirety of the experience.
Just beside Magnolia Market and in front of the actual silos, is a large grassy area used for all sorts of events, as a place to view performances on the stage located directly in front of the silos, or even a hangout spot for families to enjoy the sunshine.
However, this grass isn’t real. It’s artificial turf, which just plays into that immaculateness I talked about. No dirt, or worse, mud, comes from this grass.
Looking for some place to eat? There’s the bakery and a coffee shop but your main options are food trucks.
The food trucks are one of those great ideas I wish I’d thought of. These are permanently parked vehicles located around the property that are, indeed, food trucks but are immaculately kept, there’s that word again, and offer every kind of food option you might imagine. It’s like an outdoor food court on wheels.
Then there’s The Old Church. This isn’t some little chapel, mind you, this is a full-size church.
The church was made from elements originally part of the Second Presbyterian Church, built in 1894. The Gaines had hoped to move the church to The Silos site but it just wasn’t structurally sound enough to stand the move. Instead, they took the church apart and many of the architectural elements were moved, piece by piece.
I can’t leave off without mentioning what any fan of the show probably knows, there’s a baseball field at Magnolia.
Technically, Katy Ballpark is a whiffle ball field. Visitors can feel free to pick up one of the bats and balls and play their own little game while there.
The ballpark was created in honor of the original Katy Park, opened in Waco in 1905. The park no longer exists but during its time, minor league teams played ball there and even such Hall of Famers as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig made appearances.
If watching ball instead of playing is more your game, there’s a sleek concession stand just outside the right field fence serving peanuts, Cracker Jacks, sloppy joes, ice cream and other ballpark treats.
The Silos History
The twin silos stand 120-feet tall and were completed in 1950. They originally served as storage for the Brazos Cotton Oil Company.
A terrible F5 tornado hit Waco in 1953. I ran across stories about it at different times during my Waco visit, including a stop at the Dr. Pepper Museum.
More than 1,000 homes were destroyed and 114 people were killed. Somehow the silos survived the destruction and remain in their original condition today, serving as a Waco landmark.
Fixer Upper fans will remember the episodes where Chip and Joanna dream of someday owning The Silos and the one in which Chip surprises Joanna, telling her he had bought them.
Those are among the episodes I have seen and, being used to seeing silos along Iowa’s farmland, assumed they are located somewhere on the outskirts of town. I had no idea they are literally on the edge of the downtown area.
I visited on a weekday in September, first thing in the morning, and had no probably finding parking. However, I do hear it can be an extremely busy place during more popular times and parking can be a challenge, so plan accordingly. I’m told the downtown trolley is a great way to get around the city.
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