Inside Chip and Joanna Gaines' hometown, Waco, Texas, which they helped transform during their rise to 'Fixer Upper' fame

Joey Hadden
·9 min read
waco selfie
In downtown Waco, "Fixer Upper" couple Chip and Joanna have created a haven for rustic charm. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

As a former Texan, I know Waco as the small city that is half-way between Dallas and Austin, Texas.

waco between dallas and austin
Waco is a city in central Texas. Google Maps

Waco is about an hour and a half drive out of Dallas or Austin.

But fans of the HGTV show "Fixer Upper" and discovery+'s "Fixer Upper: Welcome Home" know it for its abandoned silos-turned-marketplace called Magnolia Marketplace.

waco silos
The Silos in downtown Waco. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The market opened downtown in 2015, as Insider previously reported. From there, tourism in the Texas town increased.

In 2018, Waco saw 2.6 million tourists, according to the Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau. Tourism decreased slightly in 2019, and in 2020 they were more than cut in half.

HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines flipped their first home together in Waco two decades ago, and the town has played an instrumental role in the couple's rise to fame ever since.

chip and joanna lede
Chip Gaines/Larry Busacca/Getty Images

As Insider previously reported, the couple married established their businesses, and started a family in Waco.

The couple went on to flip countless homes in the area and build a lifestyle empire, and the couple is often credited with revitalizing Waco.

Folks gather at the Magnolia Market at the Silos complex in Waco, Texas.
People gather at the Magnolia Market at the Silos complex in Waco, Texas. Ross Hailey/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The couple is known for transforming rundown properties in the Waco area into beautiful homes.

I was one of those tourists in October 2019. While visiting Austin, Texas, I took a Flix Bus to Waco.

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A Flix Bus at the south Waco stop. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Five bucks and two hours later, I was in "bear country."

waco texas
A Baylor University sign and statue outside of a gas station in south Waco. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Waco, Texas, is home to the Baylor Bears football team at Baylor University — the biggest Baptist college in the world, according to Britannica.

I took a Lyft from south Waco ...

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An overpass in south Waco. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

... to the Silo District in Downtown Waco, a town square with food and shopping, all with a rustic theme.

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A map of the Silo District. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Read more: 15 things you didn't know about Chip and Joanna Gaines of 'Fixer Upper'

The Silo district has its own free trolley that stops all over downtown Waco, so shoppers can easily get from store to store.

silos trolley
The trolley is free. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The trolley is on a flag-stop route, meaning if you see a moving trolley that you want to get on, you can flag down the driver.

I got on the trolley at Magnolia Marketplace at the Silos ...

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Inside the trolley in downtown Waco. Joey Hadden/Insider

... and when I saw a sign that said both "candy" and "soda," I decided to get off the trolley at the next stop.

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The Sweet Station in downtown Waco. Joey Hadden/Insider

The establishment was called the Sweet Station.

The Sweet Station is located at 425 South 8th Street in Waco, Texas.
The Sweet Station is located at 425 South 8th Street in Waco, Texas. Joey Hadden/Insider

The building served as a gas station in the 1920s and was renovated in 2019 to accommodate a new business — sugar, as KCENTV reported.

I came in for a soda. This is only about half of the selection of soda available at the Sweets Station.

So much soda.
So much soda. Joey Hadden/Insider

Overwhelmed by the choices, I went with the bubbly beverage I already knew was good.

waco silos
The Sweet Station sold New York Seltzer vanilla cream soda. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

I paid $2.17 for my refreshment and continued on my journey.

The cash register at the Sweet Station.
The cash register at the Sweet Station. Joey Hadden/Insider

When I walked outside, I noticed this little message on the side of the building.

On the side of the building, a mural reads "What a long, sweet trip it's been."
On the side of the building, a mural reads "What a long, sweet trip it's been." Joey Hadden/Insider

I thought it was a nice touch. But it wasn't the only mural in the area.

Just across the street, a larger and more colorful mural defines Waco as "a city with a soul."

A mural in downtown Waco.
A mural in downtown Waco. Joey Hadden/Insider

The mural used to say "Waco feels like home," Waco Tribune-Herald reported. The new phrase comes from eight articles from the early 1900s that describe Waco as a "city with a soul."

The mural is behind the Findery - a home goods store that opened in 2015 and is featured on "Fixer Upper."

the findery waco
Although the paint has faded, it still says "Percy Medicine" across the top of the building. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The building that is now the Findery was used for a drug store in the 20th century called Percy Medicine, according to Waco History.

The Findery sells all things related to homes, including antique furniture.

A couch and some home decor at the Findery.
A couch and some home decor at the Findery. Joey Hadden/Insider

Tourists from all over the world come to Waco to shop at the Findery for their homes.

The first floor at the Findery.
The first floor at the Findery. Joey Hadden/Insider

The Findery has had customers from as far as Singapore shop at their store, Waco Today reported in 2017.

Some customers even travel by van to get the most out of their trips to the Findery.

A couple drove all the way from Ontario, Canada, and stuffed their van with goods to take home, according to the same article.

But despite its global impact, the Findery is a family-owned business ...

The Findery sells shirts as well.
The Findery sells shirts as well. Joey Hadden/Insider

... and it feels like one too. They even have recipes and suggestions next to some of their cooking products.

the findery
These are easy suggestions for Texas olive oils and vinegar. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

After my trip to the Findery, I headed back to the Silos, which are just a block away.

A view of the back of the Silos.
A view of the back of the Silos. Joey Hadden/Insider

And that's when I realized the Silos were more than just a store.

silos waco
The Silos in Waco, Texas. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Magnolia Market has a bakery, food trucks, and a stage.

A map of the marketplace.
A map of the marketplace. Joey Hadden/Insider

The Market is open with measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, like mandatory face masks and nightly deep cleaning.

Read more: Everything you need to know about the real-life love story of 'Fixer Upper' stars Chip and Joanna Gaines

The marketplace seemed pretty busy for a Monday, even in pre-pandemic times.

Magnolia Marketplace on a Monday afternoon.
Magnolia Marketplace on a Monday afternoon. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

To me — a 24-year-old renter who spends money on everything but home goods — Magnolia Market was pretty much the same as the Findery, except bigger.

Read more: A woman who lived in a 400-sq-ft London apartment showed us how to 'maximalize' a tiny space without making it cluttered

They sold a lot of Magnolia souvenirs, like these mugs.

The mugs say "Magnolia" on them.
The mugs say "Magnolia" on them. Joey Hadden/Insider

Even on a Monday afternoon, there was a line at check-out.

The line on a Monday afternoon.
The line on a Monday afternoon. Joey Hadden/Insider

After window shopping at Magnolia Market, I headed towards Silos Bakery, where the line was out the door.

silos waco
Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Chip and Joanna's new coffee shop Magnolia Press was much easier to access, maybe because it's a block away from the Silos.

The inside of Magnolia Press.
The inside of Magnolia Press. Joey Hadden/Insider

I was surprised to find the coffee shop so calm compared to the bakery after I learned that Magnolia Press just opened in October 2019.

After my trip to the Silos, I explored more of downtown Waco, where many abandoned houses and buildings have renovation plans.

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The abandoned building is the future home of the Art Center of Waco. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The fixed-up homes are easy to spot in downtown Waco ...

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A renovated house in downtown Waco. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

... especially because they're next to houses that look abandoned.

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A house in downtown Waco with a sign the reads "This home is coming soon." Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Some homes had succulents out front in true Texas style.

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A front porch in downtown Waco. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

My downtown stroll led me to another home goods store called Interior Glow ...

The exterior of Interior & Glow.
The exterior of Interior & Glow. Joey Hadden/Insider

... where I saw candles with pictures of Chip and Joanna from "Fixer Upper" on them.

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The exterior of Interior & Glow. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

I eventually reached the Dr. Pepper Museum, which has been a Waco staple since its opening in 1991. The admission is $10 for adults.

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The front of the Dr. Pepper Museum. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The Dr. Pepper Museum is open with coronavirus regulations in place like mandatory mask-wearing.

The Dr. Pepper Museum is located in Waco because Dr. Pepper was created there.

dr pepper museum
The side of the Dr. Pepper Museum. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

In fact, Dr. Pepper used to be referred to as "Waco" because Waco was the only place you could get it, according to Roadside America.

I ended my Waco journey in Austin Avenue District in downtown Waco.

Austin Avenue District in downtown Waco.
Austin Avenue District in downtown Waco. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

After a long day of walking, I stopped at Coffee Dichotomy and Spirits for a latte.

The outside of Dichotomy Coffee and Spirits in Austin Avenue District.
The outside of Dichotomy Coffee and Spirits in Austin Avenue District. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

I wasn't too surprised to find that even this coffee shop had been fixed up.

coffee waco
The inside of Dichotomy Coffee and Spirits. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

This coffee shop was designed by local businesses, artists, and artisans. It certainly captured the rustic charm in all the home goods stores I had been in that day.

I sat and sipped my lavender latte, which set me back $4.16 ...

coffee waco
A lavender latte at Dichotomy Coffee and Spirits is $4.16. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

... and wandered up to the rooftop deck ...

coffee waco
The rooftop deck was on the second floor. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

... where only one person was sitting on this Monday afternoon. It was a peaceful way to end my day in downtown Waco.

rooftop waco
The rooftop deck at Dichotomy Coffee and Spirits. Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that "travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19."

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