By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer
There’s a desert in the middle of Central Texas, but it doesn’t have sand or camels.
Low income neighborhoods where the residents live more than one mile from a grocery store or food market are known as food deserts. The closest grocery store to some North Waco residents is 2.2 miles away. Mission Waco seeks to change that, and Magnolia is helping them.
Chip and Joanna Gaines’ company, Magnolia, purchased the old Elite Cafe earlier this year. On Saturday, they auctioned off the contents of the cafe, including the restaurant’s famous sign and blue Cadillac. All the proceeds of the auction were gifted to Mission Waco to benefit their project of bringing a grocery store, the Jubilee Food Market, to North Waco.
Before the auction, Magnolia committed to donating the remaining five percent of the cost of starting the store – totaling $28,906 – even if the auction did not make that much. Magnolia ended up donating its total auction profit of $51,000.
“This is so important because this community needs a grocery store,” said Jimmy Dorrell, executive director, president and co-founder of Mission Waco. “It is vital to their survival and opportunity to prosper.”
Last August, Mission Waco bought a building on the corner of North 15th Street and Colcord Avenue that used to be a grocery store. The market had been closed for several years and convenience stores, which Dorrell said prey on and take advantage of poverty-stricken neighborhoods, have replaced the grocery store.
Mission Waco started raising money for remodeling the grocery store in February after asking community members what they would like to be done with the building they had purchased. Of the 65 responses, 77 percent said a grocery store would be their first choice, Dorrell said.
Dorrell said Mission Waco estimated the project would cost $480,000 to start, a hefty price tag given the typically low income of a grocery store.
Mission Waco sold stock to raise the money to build the Jubilee Market, and more than 400 people from across the country contributed.
Dorrell said the Gaines’ wanted to know about Waco’s poverty and what Waco needs, so Magnolia contacted Dorrell to talk. A few weeks ago Magnolia called Dorrell with the idea for the auction and got started on it immediately.
“The Gaines’ are legitimate, genuine people,” Dorrell said. “They are passionate about Waco and it’s people. Waco has so many needs and we are honored [they] chose to work with and aid us.”