Ben and Erin Napier, stars of HGTV's Home Town, were deeply affected by their latest renovation project — make that projects. They used their expertise in 12 major makeovers of homes, businesses and public spaces in the town of Wetumpka, Ala., which was chosen from more than 5,000 others.
The result is their new, six-episode series, Hometown Takeover, premiering Sunday, which shows just how much they accomplished in four months away from their actual hometown of Laurel, Miss.
"I keep remembering the very last scene that we filmed," Erin tells Yahoo Entertainment. "They just wanted something simple. Us getting in Ben’s old truck and driving off..."
Ben adds, “And that was it.”
It was emotional for the Napiers, because it meant leaving the place their family had made their temporary home for four months of working and filming last fall. The two are the parents of 3-year-old Helen, and they're expecting their second child any time.
"I just started thinking about, like, all these people that cared for us and took care of us when we’re so far from home. We had a lot of hard moments while we were filming in Wetumpka," Erin says. "Our little girl broke her leg. I was really, you know, not feeling great and the pregnancy, and there was a handful of people who knew that I was pregnant there and they just loved us and they took care of us. They brought us food. They helped us, you know, we needed a doctor. We didn’t know who to call. They stepped up and stood in the gap where we really needed people. I was thinking of all those things as we’re filming this scene about just, get it the truck and drive away, and I started crying.”
She wasn't alone.
"Then I started crying," Ben says.
In fact, the Napiers have kept in touch with people they met in Alabama.
"Yeah," Ben explains, "some of those people have come and visited us here since we wrapped filming there, and they’ve met with, you know, locals here."
The idea is to not only hang out with their new friends, Ben and Erin, but to connect with people in Laurel about the best ways to continue moving toward their goal of making their town thrive.
The show captures the Napiers setting them up for success. For instance, the audience sees Ben and Erin working with Tabatha, the owner of a local boutique, the Tapp 18, who was in search of some help to modernize her store.
"It's not her job to know how to make a store pretty," Erin says. It's Tabatha's job to "sell pretty clothes. Those are two different things, and so that's something we could help with was merchandising, helping her tell the story of her store and its brand in a way that was more true to who is. And she wanted her store to feel sophisticated and modern and like a boutique you might find in New York City... And so that was our job, to take her wishes and her dreams for this store and to make it real."
They note that, in the case of retail, appearances matter. They're part of the shopping experience.
As Ben puts it, an online experience can — and definitely did in 2020 — come after that initial interaction, but the in-person connection is preferable anytime it's possible.
"Like with our stores, we want people to come in and shop our candles or, you know, buy a cutting board," he says of Laurel Mercantile Co. and Scotsman General Store and Woodshop. "And then when they go home and they think back, 'My gosh that was such a great store. I loved that candle. I'm gonna buy one for my aunt or for my sister and they'll go online and they can order it. And so, yeah, you don't get that from a big-box store or from an online shopping experience."
The Napiers had plenty of memorable experiences with the people of Wetumpka.
"They would say that they needed our help to make their town shine again," Erin says, "but we needed them to survive the experience of being away from home and doing this hard work."
Home Town Takeover premieres Sunday, May 2 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV. Episodes will be available to stream on Discovery+.
Related: Ben and Erin Napier team up with Sheryl Crow
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