In 2012, an HGTV producer came upon Joanna Gainese’s blog, where she wrote about projects and home life with her husband Chip. The producer liked Chip and Joanna’s authenticity and set up some test shoots with them. Network execs swooned when they saw the footage and soon ordered up one season of the show that would become Fixer Upper.
When the Fixer Upper pilot aired in 2013, the median home value in Waco was $96,102, according to Trulia. By 2016, it had increased to $110,254 — up 14 percent. That’s still much more affordable than the median price in the U.S., which rings in at $187,000
Before 2013, the Gaineses struggled to make payroll on their fledgling business.
They now have a net worth each of 8 million dollars and make $30k per hgtv episode, but this is a drop in the bucket for what economic impact they are responsible for in the region. You can find their economic impact on the city well documented, a fourfold increase in tourism, and where their businesses are now a tourist attraction.
I first became aware of the Gaines family from my wife watching their hgtv program, “Fixer Upper”. When I learned they were filming from Waco, I thought the “wackos from Waco”. Waco’s bad luck was hosting the tragic events of the Branch Davidians (actually located just outside Waco), and since Waco was not known to much of the population, outside of Baylor University, they carried the burden of societies’ perception of this town, about 1.5 hours car drive from Dallas.
While Waco’s sordid past is still the most search subject on Google—“Waco Texas massacre” is #4 and “Waco Texas shooting” is # 7—“Waco Texas Magnolia” is the sixth most popular search.
I visited the area for business, and more than any other of the dozens of cities I visit per year, people ask me to say hi to Joanna and Chip (even locals who lived here all their life have never meet the couple). And I travel to beautiful places on the West Coast and the Caribbean. While I’m not a follower of the couple, I decided to visit the Silos for an evening coffee and cupcake, and Magnolia Table for breakfast. Well, nevermind, the lines were stretching far out the door. When I visited a local customer in Waco, I was informed lines are year around and there’s a two and half hour wait. I think Disnyland lines are not as long.
But all cannot be perfect. The couple has been critized from both the right and left. Christians, the denomination the Gaineses belong to, criticized their decision to team-up with Target, who provides transgender restrooms. The LGBT community says the couple’s church critizies same sex unions, and the show has not featured same sex couples.
Having been unsuccessful at getting a seat in the restaurant, I visit Denny’s and order my favorite veggie skillet. I feel over dressed in my button down shirt and slacks. Next time wear jeans I note to myself. I asked the server if Joanne and Chip have ever visited. She just laughs as her answer.