When we first saw Erin and Ben Napier renovating old houses on the pilot of HGTV's Home Town, we were instantly hooked. The show, which will premiere in 2017, is all about revitalizing the couple's hometown of Laurel, Mississippi, so it's safe to say they know a thing or two about small town living. We recently asked Erin and Ben to with us the reasons they love their hometown so much.
1. A small town upbringing makes you appreciate history.
"I grew up in the country, outside of Laurel, and making trips into the city where there was so much historic architecture, visiting the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art on field trips growing up, it all deeply affected me," said Erin. "I learned to appreciate old and historic places and things as a child because those things were interesting to my parents, too."
2. Your neighbors go out of their way with kind gestures.
Nothing compares to the close-knit community of the small town lifestyle. "Our family moved so much growing up, but always from one small town to another, and as a minister's son you learn how giving the community is in a small town," explained Ben. "People were always leaving fresh vegetables from their gardens on our front porch. My dad was always fixing someone from the church's car in the backyard. People are very gracious to one another in a small town."
3. There are fixer uppers just waiting for someone to give them some love.
"If you don't know how to fix it yourself, get a book, Google it, ask someone who does, learn from them, and make it happen," said Ben. "You'll be so much prouder of that cabinet you built for the mudroom than you would be of the cabinets the contractor added for twice the cost. Sometimes, you need to hire the pros. I'm no plumber, and I'm okay with that. "
4. Achieving a work-life balance is doable.
"My plan was to go away to college and then graduate and live in a big city where I could (presumably) have a great big art career as a book jacket designer, like Chip Kidd or Louise Fili," said Erin. "Thanks to the internet, it became possible to have an art career on my terms, in my hometown where a historic, beautiful home is inexpensive, where I could have dinner with my parents after work if I wanted. It made so much sense to go home."
5. Your town may be small, but there are big accomplishments to be made.
"You don't have to leave your small town to make a big difference and live the dream," said Ben. While some people grow up hoping to move away from their small hometowns, Ben believes returning to the place where you're from is similar to knowing a well-kept secret. "You can be successful and make a difference there, whereas in a big city you would just be another body trying to get through the crowded street every day," he said.
6. Small businesses look to one another for support.
"They tell me we're part of this thing called the 'Makers' Movement,' which, to me, sounds like what small towns have been doing since the beginning of time," said Ben. "I support the butcher shop down the street, he buys my cutting boards. And, of course, there's no place in America where the cost of living is less and the benefits of doing business are higher. Our costs are lower, our real estate is beautiful and inexpensive, our friends and family are here. There's no place we'd rather do business."
7. You can afford your dream lifestyle.
"The affordability of owning a business and living here is an easy sell for a young person ready to take the leap and follow their dreams of owning a small business and their dream home," said Erin. "With the election of our new mayor a couple years ago, our local government became an ally for small business and they make sure it's as easy as possible to start your business in Laurel. We're so fortunate."
8. There's something different to love about every small town.
"Laurel is an eclectic little town. The way it's both a highly cultured arts town and a working class boots-and-lunch-pail town looms large and mingles well," explained Erin. "It's all the best things about Southern culture—the grit and the glamour of it. There's a level of mystery and history and art and culture and industry and entrepreneurship you'd be hard pressed to find in other towns this size. You know everyone's story, and there are many stories, and they know yours, too. "
9. There will always be a porch to have dinner on.
Whether it's at your own home or with a neighbor, small town living means spending your days porch-side. "If having dinner at home on your porch sounds good to you, move to a small town," said Erin. "If having a community that's so much a part of your life they feel like family members is important to you, move to a small town. If you can't live without a Thai-fusion restaurant, think hard about if you really want to live in a small town, then move to the small town and convince some ambitious restaurateur to open that Thai-fusion restaurant."
10. Your small town will always be your home.
"In my experience, those of us who felt bored and confined by this small town growing up ended up leaving it for a time," said Erin. "And when we left, we got some perspective and realized we could only scratch that itch for fulfillment by coming back home and doing something that matters and contributes to the story of our city. I think if you leave it and come back, you're home for good. Thank goodness."