Home town takeover

Photo from Erin Napier's Instagram page. 

The moment Wetumpka's been waiting for has finally arrived. HGTV's Home Town Takeover is set to air on Sunday, May 2.

Erin Napier, half of the husband-wife duo that hosts the show, announced on Instagram that the first episode in the six-week series will air at 7 p.m. on HGTV. Viewers can also watch episode one on Discovery Plus at any time on May 2.  

Over a period of four months, crews with HGTV transformed Company Street and renovated homes, businesses and parks.    

"In the span of four months last fall and winter, during a global pandemic, five hours from home, @scotsman.co (Ben Napier) and I gave it our everything to help teach a little town in Alabama everything we’ve learned about small town revitalization in our 13 years of work in Laurel," Erin Napier wrote in an Instagram post. "We’re sister cities now, examples of what communities who fight for their small towns can do: We will renovate homes, sure. And businesses. And parks. And an entire street. All with the help of our Wetumpka, HGTV and Discovery friends and family."

Once the series airs, town leaders expect there to be in an influx of tourists coming to Wetumpka to get a look at the places they saw on TV. But Shellie Whitfield, director of the Wetumpka Area Chamber of Commerce, said she started noticing an uptick in tourism soon after the announcement was made in the summer of 2020 that Wetumpka had been picked for show. 

"Three days after the announcement, we ran out of tourism guides at the Chamber," Whitfield said. "The amount of foot traffic in the Chamber has been crazy. We get tons of people from Birmingham. We've also gotten visitors from Florida, Chicago and Pennsylvania -- it has really been unbelievable. It's been amazing and the show hasn't even aired yet. We all expected that with the pandemic, things would be a lot slower, but not here. Downtown has gotten its life back."

Whitfield said a lot of downtown businesses have told her that they've experienced a 35-40% increase in sales, even in the midst of COVID-related shut-downs.

Tim Hinkle, owner of Scent Wizards, said out-of-town visitors always mention HGTV.

"Business has picked up since people started hearing about it," he said. "I have a big order shipping out next week because of it."

Hinkle said a company affiliated with HGTV heard about his business and placed an order for a large quantity of bath bombs.

"Hopefully my name will get out there even more," he said.

In addition to the bath bombs, Hinkle said customers really love the Lightning Hill Candles and the wax lanterns with wax melts.

"It's not just me, all the business owners are just excited because they know what's going to happen after it airs," Hinkle said.

In the meantime, Hinkle is preparing his business.

"I've been double ordering products, I'm getting my windows repainted, new lighting and cleaning the carpets," he said.

Whitfield is also preparing. The Chamber has partnered with the Elmore County Technical Center to offer an opportunity to students in the hospitality program.

"We are going to train the students on how to do walking tours that will take place on Saturdays," Whitfield said. "This is just one way we're trying to accommodate visitors. This also gets students involved in the excitement and it gives them workforce experience."

The Chamber is also in the process of having hospitality posters made for Wetumpka businesses. The posters will provide tips on how to make a customer's experience the best that it can be.

"The poster will serve as a training tool for business owners," Whitfield said. "We want visitors to have good experiences and to keep coming back to Wetumpka."