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Signs of the Times

Waco’s Magnolia Market
Written by June Naylor. Photographs by Michael Amador.

Magnolia Market

In planning my maiden voyage to the Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco, I have the good sense to enlist my friend Sherry to ride shotgun for the 90-minute trip from our homes in Fort Worth. A professional designer with exquisite taste, Sherry provides both insight and guidance as we explore one of the biggest retailing success stories in the state of Texas.

Magnolia Market at the Silos is at 601 Webster Ave. in Waco. Hours: Mon-Sat 9-6. Call 254/235-0603.

I’m curious about the excitement over this store, which was launched in 2015 by Waco residents Chip and Joanna Gaines, whose HGTV Fixer Upper show has mushroomed into a sensationally popular franchise. Known for remaking drab houses into showplaces heavy with modern farmhouse sensibilities and touches of country chic, the adorable couple with expert remodeling and decorating skills took their fame to another realm upon opening this expansive retail complex in downtown Waco.

As we’ve heard that the market gets crowded—especially on Saturdays—Sherry and I have planned to arrive at opening time, 9 a.m., on Monday. Taking the first exit from I-35 after crossing the magnificent Brazos River, we note the downtown landmarks that you see in the opening moments of the TV show. And we see the signature silos immediately.

The Magnolia Market grounds cover more than two acres just three blocks west of the interstate. The two enormous, aged grain silos rise high into the sky opposite a big, white barn, which houses the store.

Right away, we’re taken with the sense of community that Chip and Joanna create with this place. Even before we climb the broad steps to the store’s front porch, we catch sight of a garden—a magnet for us both, as we’re cultivating vegetable and flower gardens at home. To the far west end of the silos, raised beds bursting with colorful vegetable plants lure gawkers like us. A tiny garden cottage sits there as well, giving the setting a homey feel.

Magnolia Market

But we’re here to check out the home goods, so we head back to the store. Immediately we’re distracted by the gardening items, from colorful pots and wooden boxes full of horticulture books to vintage glass milk bottles perfect for holding fresh flowers. Door mats beckon “hello.” Barn lights hang from the ceiling, as do rustic chandeliers.

Sherry says she is keen to see in person some of the locally handcrafted items she’s noted on the show. And instantly, she points out a special find: Metal wall hangings, each just less than an inch thick, cover a back wall. Each one offers a warm sentiment, cut out in various artful script styles. One reads, “grow old with me /the best is yet to be…” and another reads, “your mountain is waiting so get on your way.” Sherry and I can’t decide which one we like best, wavering between the one that reads, “she designed a life
she loved” or another, paraphrasing Walt Whitman, “We were together. I forget the rest.”

Offered in two sizes, roughly two-feet square and a smaller nine-inch square, the signs are designed by Joanna and crafted by metal artist Jimmy Don Holmes at his Stars Over Texas studio in Crawford. Bold and substantial, these signs give a sense of greater permanence than many of the rustic wooden ones found in home décor shops today.

Continuing to browse, we note super-soft, gray T-shirts emblazoned with some of Chip and Joanna’s favorite words and expressions, such as #shiplap (a reference to one of their favorite vintage building features) and #demoday (Chip’s favorite part of the makeover process), as well as the simple WACO shirt. We like that these are all Waco products.

Making our way through table after table of kitchen and dining goodies, journals, old-fashioned alarm clocks, and cute 1950s-esque lunch boxes, Sherry and I find ourselves in front of a table that makes us both sigh audibly. We’ve found the jewelry, and we’re both giddy and a bit awestruck. The pieces are simple in detail but still artful.

We like the leather bracelets, both the wrist wraps and the one that features a big brass ring at its center. The vintage antique coin on a long strand of tan deerskin is beautiful, too, as is the pair of plain wooden loop earrings. But we’re both particularly drawn to delicate gold necklaces that we find out come from a Waco artisan.

Sherry’s pick is the feather necklace, in which a horizontal gold feather is attached on either end to a dainty gold chain. I’m torn; I cannot decide between the gold “posy” necklace, which features 30 tiny gold rings attached to a light gold chain, or the gold chain holding a thin brass bar stamped with letters spelling BELOVED, one of my favorite words in the English language.

These lovely items are made just a few blocks away by designer Summer Ellis. A Canada native, Summer infuses her work with subtle femininity and romance, calling on a deft talent that keeps the items from being showy or too girlish. Summer’s creative spirit and passion for tasteful things go a long way in giving Waco a refreshing, artful identity.

After paying for our finds, Sherry and I make our way back outside to wander around a little longer in the Magnolia Market atmosphere. The crowds are building, even on a Monday. Moms and dads relax with their little ones in the large green park space that spreads out from the silos. People are playing games like corn hole on the grass, and other visitors are strolling the walking path that circles the grounds. Eight food trucks typically park on the property, and folks line up at each for grilled-cheese sandwiches, crepes, pizza, and Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches.

We’re just happy with our jewelry finds and ready to sip coffee from one of the trucks while we plot our next Waco pilgrimage. First, though, I have to find the right wall at home for one of those big metal signs.

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