‘Home Town Takeover’ wins the hearts of a community
By Allison Law
Small towns are the heart and soul of our country, where neighbors, friends and people who’ve never even met can pull together and create a sense of community, one that transcends economic downturns, natural disasters and even a virus that turned into a pandemic.
One of these small towns has been spiffed up and polished for its debut on the show “Home Town Takeover,” a spinoff of the popular “Home Town” series on HGTV that has filmed five seasons so far. Wetumpka – population about 8,000, county seat of Elmore County – beat out 2,600 other towns from around the country that applied to have their homes, businesses and historic structures revitalized and reimagined with the help of Erin and Ben Napier.
The Napiers are the married couple who use their design and building skills to work together to restore and renovate historic homes and businesses in their native Laurel, Mississippi. (They also own Laurel Mercantile Co., which features U.S.-made heirloom wares and durable goods.) The Napiers’ warmth, chemistry and heart have endeared them to fans, and their love of small towns is evident.
“It’s too bad that small towns are so often undervalued because you can live a beautiful life in them,” Erin Napier said in a news release promoting the new show. “People really want to believe in a bright future in the place where they live, but rebuilding a town is no small feat. It takes every member of that community using their gifts and skills coming together to make a difference.”
Jenny Stubbs is executive director of Main Street Wetumpka, a non-profit organization that works to revitalize the downtown area of the Elmore County town, and she couldn’t agree more. She says being a part of the show has already affected the community for the good, and it hasn’t even premiered yet.
“It’s taught us that our revitalization efforts haven’t been in vain, so much more can be accomplished when you work together, and to never give up,” she says. “As far as tangible effects go, our businesses have already seen an increase in sales, there’s more foot traffic downtown and our organization has enjoyed a surge in volunteers.”
The show will feature 12 major renovations all over Wetumpka, including restaurants, shops, historic homes, public spaces, a new farmers’ market and even an entire downtown street. The goal is for the show to have an impact that will continue for generations.
‘Best foot forward’
The show filmed for several months in 2020, and anxious townsfolk documented the goings-on on social media channels. The homeowners, business owners and others involved in the show signed non-disclosure agreements, so they’re limited in what they can say about the show’s production.
But if the social media buzz is any indication, the cast and production crew received a big helping of Southern hospitality, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic forced the crew to implement all kinds of safety protocols, including frequent testing and a masked crew behind the cameras.
“The community truly put its best foot forward throughout the process,” Stubbs says. “Of course, (the pandemic) meant the interactions were more limited and everything was a bit different than it typically would be. But the film crew … had nothing but great things to say about the experience.”
During the premiere, the work will start right away as a colorful mural, painted by local students, signals big changes are on the horizon for Wetumpka. The Napiers and Dave and Jenny Marrs, stars of HGTV’s “Fixer to Fabulous,” will complete a home renovation for a loving foster family, and the owner of a struggling fashion boutique will get a fresh design to take her business into the future.
“That’s what we’re here to do with every project,” Ben Napier said in the news release. “It is a massive task and we’re so thankful our HGTV and Discovery family were so inspired by Wetumpka’s story that they wanted to come and be a part of this enormous undertaking. It’s going to be awesome.”
And Stubbs believes the benefits will go far beyond Wetumpka’s historic downtown.
“It’s such a remarkable opportunity to put our state in the spotlight. I know we’ll see an uptick in visitors, and I’m confident those people will want to make the most of their trips by doing as much as they can while in the area, or state, for that matter.
“The possibilities are endless, and we definitely plan to make the most of it. I believe Wetumpka will do Alabama proud.”
HOW TO WATCH
The premiere episode of the six-episode series “Home Town Takeover” will air at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 2 on HGTV and will be available to stream on discovery+ beginning that day. (discovery+ is a subscription streaming service on a variety of platforms and devices, including ones from Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku and Samsung. You can download the app to your smartphone, tablet or smart TV and pick a subscription plan.)
In “Tales from the Takeover,” which will air every Monday beginning May 3, host Jason Pickens will chat with Ben and Erin Napier to get their perspective on each episode of “Home Town Takeover.”
Learn more on hgtv.com, and follow @HGTV on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #LOVEMYHOMETOWN for additional content. #ALABAMALIVING