Kimberly and Blake Batson, Wacoans of the Year, 2023
by Megan Willome
Waco isn’t the mythical land of Narnia, but many of us can remember a time when the city was stuck in always-winter, never-Christmas. Downtown was not dead, but it was certainly frozen.
Baylor students left town on weekends and as quickly after graduation as possible. Tragedies happened.
The spell began to break about a decade ago, with the help of a little TV show called “Fixer Upper.” Suddenly, we remembered the beauty of this city and its people. The thaw had started.
Since then, new businesses founded by both homegrown folks and people who moved here and fell in love with Waco are opening and thriving. Old ventures are getting a fresh start. Beloved institutions are popping up in multiple locations to serve this growing city.
C.S. Lewis, author of “The Chronicles of Narnia”, probably never imagined that a little bookshop in Waco called Fabled would incorporate a wardrobe with real coats into its children’s section. Alison Frenzel, who co-owns the shop with Kimberly Batson, says her favorite Narnia book is the first one, “because Lucy discovers a hidden world,” Frenzel said. “The idea that something is possible that feels impossible is what I love.”
She was talking about “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”, but she may as well have been talking about Waco.
The city’s remarkable transformation is due to the loving, hard work of people like Kimberly and Blake Batson.
This couple loves the Narnian stories, and they love Waco. In the past 10 years they have had a part in seven iconic businesses and are working on an eighth. These businesses are both the must-see spots for tourists and the regular hangouts for all who call Waco home. They frequently top our Best of Waco surveys, no doubt owing to how they fuse excellence with an emphasis on gathering. And there are surely more business stories to come.
That’s why Kimberly and Blake Batson are our Wacoans of the Year.
The Batsons are as local as they come — Waco born and bred and Baylor-educated. To tell their story, we’ve broken it into chapters inspired by the seven books of “The Chronicles of Narnia”, chronicling their own adventures through life. We spoke with Blake and Kimberly but we also interviewed some other characters (aka business partners, aka friends) to get a full picture of their story.
Sometimes their reputation is a bit larger than life, said Evan Graves, live events manager at Common Grounds.
“When I first started working, [Blake] was a mythological creature I knew existed, would see every once in a while. But it feels like I’m working with a friend. He really cares,” Graves said. As does Kimberly. “Their heart and soul are very tied to this place.”
Let’s enter the wardrobe, shall we? We’ll begin where it all started — at Common Grounds.
Book 1: Blake, Kimberly & the Coffee Shop
Read the rest of the story at wacoan.com.