Their fortunes changed in 2013, as any fan of reality television knows. Chip and Joanna became the stars of an HGTV show called Fixer Upper, a home-remodeling program in which their loving rapport takes center stage, and it turned them into America’s sweethearts. Viewers live-tweet episodes with the hashtag #RelationshipGoals and heart emojis. Now the Gaineses are building a personal empire: They run the construction and design business (which is booming) and the show (which just wrapped filming of season four) alongside their new magazine, The Magnolia Journal. (“Magnolia” is the Gaineses’ umbrella corporate name. Their construction company, for example, is Magnolia Homes.) Their first book, The Magnolia Story, came out in October and became an instant best-seller. Joanna has a line of furniture, and they’re considering a second show focusing on her design process.
Reality television has, of course, transformed many such struggling businesspeople before them. But the couple’s response to fame has very much separated them from their newly famous peers: They’ve invested heavily in Waco, a city of 130,000 that’s also something of a fixer-upper. In opening multiple businesses there, they’ve helped turn the city into a certifiable tourist destination – sparking not just an ecosystem of other businesses that serve the tens of thousands of fans rolling in each week but also a model of how entrepreneurs in other cities, even without the backing of a cable TV show, can make an enormous difference.