Brigus-based TV show is giving historic town plenty of new exposure

·4 min read

Byron Rodway likes to get out for a stroll in his hometown of Brigus whenever he can.

The town’s narrow streets and stunning scenery make those strolls a joy at any time of day for Brigus's mayor.

But in recent weeks, Rodway has noticed a change in the number of people he meets on the roads.

When they stop him, these winter tourists are asking the whereabouts of different properties, ones they’ve seen on "Rock Solid Builds," an HGTV Canada show that features Brigus-based New Found Builders and the construction work they’re doing in the region.

“It is great exposure,” said Rodway. “It is really noticeable the increase of people driving around. It is similar to the people we see in July or August.”

Randy Spracklin and his crew with New Found Builders first appeared on television screens across the country on Feb. 18. That’s when their "Rock Solid Builds" show premiered.

A Newfoundland-take on the home renovation genre, the program has showcased the region to a whole new audience through its mixture of unique builds and restorations.

“It is a little bit surreal to see yourself on television,” said Spracklin.

With the first season under their tool belts and the fifth episode set to air Thursday night, Spracklin is starting to see a difference when he darts around town.

Like Rodway, he’s seen an increase in traffic on the weekends while he's out for walks. People are coming out like it’s a Blueberry Festival weekend and not a random weekend in March.

Since the show has been on the air, Spracklin has gotten plenty of messages from people outside the province who are blown away by the scenery they’ve seen on the show.

He’s also had messages from people who plan to visit the area as soon as they are allowed to.

People have also asked him if there are any properties for sale because they’d like to move to the area and live in Brigus.

“I think Brigus is going to be a hot spot in the summertime, and when the pandemic is over, I’d say watch out,” said Spracklin.

As one would expect, in the weeks since the show started on HGTV, the crew at New Found Builders have become more recognizable when they’re travelling around or stopping at various vendors.

There have been calls from people with older properties who are looking to renovate or are just now realizing what they can do with their property. Some have asked the crew to come out and do some work for them.

Looking back on the filming experience, Spracklin says he'd do it again in a heartbeat.

He said if HGTV approaches them about a second season, the first question he’d ask is when they can start. Not only have they been able to show off their work, but it has also given them a chance to give people a glimpse of local culture, including certain phrases — "mint" and "tangly" come to mind — used in the area.

“It was an amazing adventure,” Spracklin said of working on the show.

He hasn’t seen people stopping to watch his crew work yet, but that might change with the weather.

The extra attention Brigus is receiving certainly isn’t lost on the local business community.

“Brigus right now, it is booming,” said Debbie O’Flaherty, owner of the North Street Café.

The café isn’t open yet, but O’Flaherty is preparing for what she expects to be a busy summer. The idea is to be ready to welcome patrons when the province moves the Avalon Peninsula to Alert Level 3 of its pandemic plan.

“It is just going to get bigger and better,” she said of Brigus and the attention it is getting. “A lot of people are anxious to get here.”

Winters can be slow in Brigus when it comes to tourism, but the show has sparked a different kind of feeling in the area this winter.

“The show and the work the boys are doing is certainly giving it a pulse in the winter,” said Rodway. “It is giving Brigus a heartbeat in the winter.”

Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice