For those of you who’ve even casually watched an episode of “Fixer Upper” on HGTV you know that Chip and Joanna Gains are the hottest thing in Waco Texas now. They’ve become famous during the last couple of years by starring on the show that documents how they fix up old houses in the Waco area. They took their personal ventures mainstream last year with the renovation of the famous silos in Waco and turning them into the new location of their home decor store and a new bakery. At the same time, they raised the location’s status to a major tourist attraction in Waco.
Chip and Joanna’s latest project involves revitalizing the now-closed Elite Cafe on Waco’s famous “Circle”. For almost 100 years the Elite Cafe was THE place to stop for dining when traveling between Austin and Dallas. Its heyday of popularity was back in the 60’s and 70’s when I had the opportunity to visit it on several occasions. One of it’s most notable mentions is that when it moved to its current location in 1941 it was the very first restaurant in Waco to have air conditioning. It was purchased in 1986 by the late restaurateur, David Tinsley of Huntsville.
I was fortunate enough to have been a customer of Mr. Tinsley’s very first restaurant on I45 in Huntsville back in the 60’s. While attending Sam Houston State my friends and I used to go there a lot and got to know him and his mother on a personal level. He became quite wealthy in the fried chicken business with 45 restaurants scattered across Texas and was well-known for his completely restored DC-3 often visible in the skies around Huntsville. When David purchased the Elite Cafe he immediately set out to return it to its original splendor by investing 1.5 million in its restoration. When David died suddenly in a car wreck in 2014 the restaurant was taken over by Creed Ford III, an Austin based restaurateur who never quite brought the cafe back to its original popularity and closed the doors last February citing declining customers. I’m extremely happy that a high-profile couple like Chip and Johanna are jumping in to use their creativity and resources to help keep a part of David Tinsley’s dream alive.