Chip Gaines Buys Popular Tourist Attraction

Chip Gaines

Heavy/Magnolia Network Chip Gaines

For decades, fans of Pulitzer Prize-winning author and screenwriter Larry McMurtry have flocked to his tiny hometown of Archer City, Texas, to visit his famous bookstore, jam-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 Endearment.” Since the writer’s death in March 2021, the fate of the shop — Booked Up Inc. — has been in question, and speculation has only increased since Chip Gaines, who rocketed to fame on HGTV‘s “Fixer Upper,” quietly purchased the store and all of the books inside it, according to CNN.

On February 22, 2023, a representative for Gaines confirmed the purchase to CNN, saying that the TV star was a big fan of McMurtry’s work and has lifelong ties to Archer City, which has a population of 1,600.

But townspeople and fans of McMurtry are wary of what might happen to the popular destination, whether Gaines decides to close the store for good or turn it into his latest fixer-upper project. Here’s what you need to know:

How Chip Gaines Wound Up Purchasing Larry McMurtry’s Legendary Bookstore

President Obama, Larry McMurtry

GettyPresident Barack Obama presents the 2014 National Humanities Medal to author Larry McMurtry

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 by the Wichita Falls Times Record News, she was deeded the properties on August 11, 2022, by his heirs.

Then, in early November, the records show she transferred the two bookstore buildings and the collection of books to XVI Investments, with Gaines listed as its director. The purchase price was listed as $10 and “other good and valuable consideration,” a common phrase used when the parties involved don’t want to divulge the actual purchase price, per the Times Record News.

The outlet reported that the property tax values for the two buildings that housed Booked Up Inc were valued at $115,000, while the book collection, shelving, and fixtures inside were valued at $151,650. But, the Times Record News noted, “taxable values do not always equate to actual sales values.”

According to CNN, the bookstore’s sale was first reported by the Archer County News in December after Jerry Phillips, the former owner of the newspaper, saw Gaines and his dad carrying boxes of books out of the store. But Phillips’ star sighting wasn’t the first time Gaines had been in town.

In a 2019 interview in Cowboys & Indians magazine, Gaines said he spent summers as a kid on his grandpa J.B.’s ranch in Archer City, which holds a special place in his heart because it’s where he learned about ranching and handiwork.

“He was real lean and tall and always wore a cowboy hat, and was just the coolest guy in the world,” Gaines told the publication. “I’d spend the summer out with J.B. and learned how to mend fences, and we’d ride horses.”

A spokesperson for Gaines told CNN, “Chip’s connection to Archer City traces 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 preserve this incredible book collection with the respect it deserves.”

Town Wants to Know What Will Happen to Tourist Attraction

Chip and Joanna Gaines

Magnolia NetworkChip and Joanna Gaines

McMurtry’s bookstore is currently closed, but many Archer City residents hope that Gaines’ involvement and investment are signs it might return, helping the town to remain a tourist destination for fans of the legendary author, who also won an Academy Award in 2006 for Best Adapted Screenplay, with fellow writer Diana Ossana, for “Brokeback Mountain.”

Phillips told CNN, “People would be devastated if the bookstore disappeared. It needs to have some presence here just for his legacy.”

In November, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission established a national Literary Landmark in McMurtry’s honor, installed at the 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.

Next to the bookstore Gaines purchased, another popular tourist stop is The Royal Theater, which inspired “The Last Picture Show” and was seen in the 1971 film adaptation of McMurtry’s book, starring Cybill Shepherd and Jeff Bridges. Some fans hope Gaines is considering turning the town into a grander tourist destination, as he and his wife Joanna have done in Waco, Texas.

According to Insider, the couple has leveraged the success of “Fixer Upper” and their Magnolia cable network to create a tourist destination in their hometown, transforming a site with two run-down silos into a shopping mecca with 11 stores, a coffee shop, a bakery, an outdoor activities area, and a restaurant across the street. With over 30,000 tourists visiting every week, a new Magnolia Hotel is also set to open later this year.

When Gaines tweeted a link to CNN’s story about his purchase of the bookstore, multiple fans expressed their hope he’ll help restore the shop and interest in the little town.

One wrote, “Nice work Chip – any life you can breathe into Archer City/ WF’s area is greatly appreciated. N Texas is largely often forgotten by the whole of the state.”

For now, Gaines is staying mum about his specific plans for the town and the bookstore. In the meantime, fans can still find rare McMurtry gems online. Though Collins sold the store buildings and books to Gaines, she kept the bookstore’s name and recently opened an online Booked Up shop.

The website says that while the physical store held over 200,000 books, Collins “decided that the legacy of Booked Up should live on into a new era,” adding that the online version will continue to provide customers with “the best selection of rare & fine books.”

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