Chip Gaines acquires popular tourist attraction
For decades, fans of Pulitzer Prize-winning author and screenwriter Larry McMurtry have flocked to his small hometown of Archer City, Texas to visit his famous bookstore, which is packed with thousands of rare and historic titles, including copies of his own classic novels such as “Lonesome Dove”, “The Last Picture Show” and “Terms of Tenderness”. Since the death of the writer In March 2021, the fate of the store — Booked Up Inc. — was in question, and speculation has only increased since Chip Gaines, who found fame on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” quietly bought the store and all of the books in it , according to CNN.
On February 22, 2023, a Gaines representative confirmed the purchase to CNN, saying that the television star is a huge fan of McMurtry’s work and has lifelong ties to Archer City of 1,600.
But townspeople and fans of McMurtry are wary of what might happen to the popular target, whether Gaines decides to close shop for good or turn it into his latest fixer-upper project. Here’s what you need to know:
How Chip Gaines came to buy Larry McMurtry’s legendary bookstore
After McMurtry’s death, his son, Musician James McMurtry, told CNN that his father left Booked Up Inc. to the store’s longtime manager Khristal Collins. According to Archer County records obtained from the Wichita Falls Times Record Newsthe properties were transferred to her by his heirs on August 11, 2022.
Then, in early November, the records show that it transferred the two bookstore buildings and book collection to XVI Investments, with Gaines listed as a director. The purchase price was stated as $10 plus “other good and valuable consideration,” a common phrase used when the parties involved choose not to disclose the actual purchase price, according to Times Record News.
The outlet reported that property tax values for the two buildings that housed Booked Up Inc were estimated at $115,000, while the book collection, shelving and furnishings inside were estimated at $151,650. But, according to the Times Record News, “taxable values don’t always reflect actual sales values.”
According to CNN, the bookstore was selling first reported by the Archer County News in December after Jerry Phillips, the paper’s former owner, saw Gaines and his father carrying boxes of books out of the store. But Phillips’ star sighting wasn’t Gaines’ first time in town.
In a 2019 Interview in Cowboys & Indians magazineGaines said he spent his childhood summers at his grandfather JB’s Archer City ranch, which holds a special place in his heart because that’s where he learned about ranching and manual labour.
“He was really slim and tall and always wore a cowboy hat and was just the coolest guy in the world,” Gaines told the publication. “I spent the summer with JB learning how to fix fences and we rode horses.”
A spokesman for Gaines told CNN, “Chip’s connection to Archer City goes back to his parents and grandparents who grew up there. He loves this community and has been a big fan of Larry McMurtry for years. Chip is honored and excited to be preserving this incredible collection of books with the respect it deserves.”
The city wants to know what’s happening with the tourist attraction
McMurtry’s bookstore is currently closed, but many Archer City residents are hoping Gaines’ dedication and investment are signs they may return, helping the city remain a tourist destination for fans of the legendary author, who too won an Oscar 2006 Best Adapted Screenplay with writer Diana Ossana for Brokeback Mountain.
Phillips told CNN, “People would be devastated if the bookstore went away. It just needs to be present here for its legacy.”
In November, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission established a national literary landmark in McMurtry’s honor, installed at Archer City Public Library. Literary landmarks are designed to attract tourists, book lovers and history buffs to educate the public about important literary works and history, the commission said.
In addition to the bookstore purchased by Gaines, another popular tourist attraction is the Royal Theatre, which inspired The Last Picture Show and starred in the 1971 film adaptation of McMurtry’s book, starring Cybill Shepherd and Jeff Bridges. Some fans are hoping Gaines is considering turning the city into a grander tourist destination like he and his wife Joanna did in Waco, Texas.
According to insiders The couple has capitalized on the success of “Fixer Upper” and theirs Magnolia cable network to create a tourist destination in their hometown by transforming a site with two derelict silos into a shopping mecca with 11 shops, a coffee shop, a bakery, an outdoor activities area and a restaurant across the street. With over 30,000 tourists visiting each week, a new Magnolia Hotel is slated to open later this year.
If Gaines tweeted a link Following CNN’s story about his purchase of the bookstore, several fans expressed hope that he would help restore the store and interest in the small town.
One wrote: “Good job Chip – any life you can bring to the Archer City/WF area is greatly appreciated. N Texas is often forgotten by the entire state.”
For now, Gaines remains silent about his specific plans for the city and the bookstore. In the meantime, fans can still find rare McMurtry jewels online. Although Collins sold the business premises and books to Gaines, she kept the bookstore name and recently opened an online booked-up shop.
The website states that although the physical store contained over 200,000 books, Collins “determined that Booked Up’s legacy should live on in a new era,” adding that the online version will continue to offer customers “the best selection of rare and fine books” will offer books.”
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