Hospitality, Texas-Style

They say, “fortune favors the bold”. In recent months I have come to understand that in the world of business, it is very true. I can think of no greater example of people who go all in than Chip and Joanna Gaines from HGTV’s Fixer Upper. We read their book a while back and decided to visit their world in Waco, Texas while the hubs had business there. 

An Unexpected Find

 A convicting message to start my morning.

A convicting message to start my morning.

While my husband was working, I went on a hunt for breakfast. Because I didn’t want to stand in a long line to eat alone at the Gaines' new restaurant, Magnolia Table, I headed to a little bakery I saw on Yelp. It was in a neighborhood called the Elm Avenue District which consisted of a wide empty street, almost completely abandoned, across the river from downtown. But Lula Jane’s was hopping. I went into, what looked like, a converted garage to find an incredibly friendly and knowledgeable millennial waiting to serve me. The large coffee was $1.00 and good! Admittedly refills were .50, but still! 

I sat there having my quiet time and soaking in the vibe. Then the question came to me. What makes people take risks? What made these seemingly sane people invest so much of their time, attention, energy, and money in a part of town that was all but abandoned? That is the spirit of an entrepreneur. I couldn’t help but admire the courage and hard work it took for these people to go after their dream. But they are Texans, after all. Remember wildcatters? You know, those people who risked everything to sink one more well to get the oil they just knew was in the ground? It’s that same spirit at work. But what was making it work in this case, was the love that was evident.

At Lulu’s I saw at least two customers get hugged, people introducing themselves by first name to the staff, students working intently on their laptops, and friends chatting. There was even a kid-sized table with a giant chalkboard at their level to allow parents to have grown-up conversations. The proprietors had created a, “make yourself at home” atmosphere while providing delicious food (bacon cheddar scones) at a good price. Of course, it didn’t hurt that they had blue spray-painted chandeliers. Lulu’s exuded warm hospitality at its best. The owners took a big risk and created something special to be proud of.

The Main Event

The next stop was Magnolia Market at the Silos. You talk about genius! Chip and Joanna Gaines, took an old cottonseed oil plant and turned it into a destination for people all over the U.S. We learned that 30,000 people a week visit that place! Amazing! Of course, it is incredibly popular because of their notoriety. But they are famous because of who they are as people and their enviable abilities. But make no mistake, their success happened over years through tons of hard work, lots of risks, and heart.

Like Lulu’s, but on a much larger scale, the Gaines have created a home away from home. There are loads of tables in the shade to enjoy a rest and conversation while chowing down on offerings from a handful of food trucks. A large span of artificial turf is a great place where kids can play or people can lounge on stuffed “chairs”.  Giant porch swings beckon on the way to the watering station. Customers can stroll through the kitchen garden getting inspiration, grab baked goods from the Silos Bakery, or shop in the market, where Joanna’s merchandising brilliance is on full display. There is something for everyone and it is evident from their amenities and systems of organization that the Gaines are trying to make the customer experience as pleasant as possible, from the parking, to shipping. That is hospitality.

There will be a day when the crowds peter out now that Fixer Upper has wrapped its last season (much to the sadness of fans). But even when that happens, because you can feel love behind everything the Gaines do, what will be left will still be a very special place for the people of Waco and their guests.

So, what have I learned?

Success is risky and takes courage and hard work. But it will not amount to anything without love at the heart of it because it is through the heart that we exhibit true hospitality.