HGTV stars Ben and Erin Napier – who are also big proponents of Made in America – are giving a boost to a small Alabama town.
It’s no secret that we are big fans of Ben and Erin Napier here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing. The stars of HGTV’s “Home Town” have even appeared on our podcast (Ben’s come on twice!) to talk about their commitment to supporting Made in America.
The husband-and-wife team aren’t just talk. They partnered with Vaughan-Bassett (of “Factory Man” fame) on a Made in USA furniture line, and they sell a whole bunch of Made in America items at their store, Laurel Mercantile, which is located in their home town of Laurel, Miss.
Here’s what Ben Napier said about why they are so dedicated to supporting Made in America:
“We recognize that our show is about revitalizing small town America, Laurel, and without small town industry, American manufacturing, you don’t have small town America.”
The Napiers get it.
Anyway, the fifth season of “Home Town” wrapped up recently. Now the Napiers are featured on a new HGTV show, “Home Town Takeover,” which chronicles the effort to revitalize the town of Wetumpka, Ala., by renovating both local businesses and the homes of deserving residents.
And let me tell you, this show is very, very touching. On the first episode, for example, the Napiers renovate the home of a family that is fostering local children. They also give a local fashion boutique, named Tapp 18, a stylish makeover (and the attention from the show led to a flood in orders for the store, which was on the brink of closing).
Other episodes include renovating a local barbershop (that’s also owned by the mayor) and giving a local restaurant a refresh. But it is really the home renovations that tug at the heartstrings.
The Napiers help to fix up a historic house that was featured in the movie “Big Fish,” but they also renovate a home owned by a couple that started a local youth basketball league (that makeover included renovating the backyard basketball court).
I’ve cried every episode. It’s such a joyous show.
I think one of the reasons why Home Town Takeover has resonated so much with me – and why I think it will resonate so much with readers of this blog – is that even if you didn’t know about Wetumpka before the show, you know about towns like Wetumpka.
The decline of American manufacturing devastated Wetumpkas all across the country. When a local factory shut its doors, it often sucked the life out of the entire community. Factory workers lost their income, and that in turn meant they had less income to spend at local businesses. Eventually, many of those local businesses closed their doors, too.
When HGTV announced it had selected Wetumpka for the show, it pointed out that the city “faces many of the same challenges that beset small and remote towns across the country — closing businesses, compromised employment prospects, outmigration of young people, the impact of natural and climate-related disasters as well as homes and neighborhoods in varying stages of neglect or disrepair.”
But like small towns across America, those in Wetumpka did not give up on their home town. Over the past several years, Wetumpkans had been hard at work on revitalizing their downtown corridor, and were starting to see results.
Then disaster struck.
In January 2019, a tornado struck the town on a Saturday afternoon, destroying or significantly damaging many downtown buildings (along with much of the revitalization that had happened). At least 35 homes were damaged or destroyed. The town’s beloved First Presbyterian Church took a direct hit and was completely destroyed.
And so now Wetumpka is mounting its second comeback, this time with a little help from the Napiers and HGTV.
It’s definitely worth a watch, whether you are in the mood for something uplifting, or just want to find a show to tune into during the long weekend. And while you are at it, be sure to listen to the two podcast episodes featuring the Napiers, which are embedded below.