By Kelly Burns
GTV is home to the most popular renovation shows on television – Fixer Upper, Property Brothers, and Love It or List It to name a few – and the attention the different franchises has brought to the cities they are filmed in can be substantial. The success of Fixer Upper’s Chip and Joanna Gaines is the most obvious example, with an estimated 30,000 people a week visiting the couple’s Magnolia Market in Waco, Tx. So, when the network put an ad on Instagram two years ago looking for a small town in need of a makeover, Minden residents Sara McDaniel and Rachel Miller took notice. The two community advocates, who are also friends and neighbors, got to work filling out applications and filming areas of Minden to submit the town for consideration.
It made sense that Sara and Rachel would jump at the opportunity to have Minden showcased on HGTV; after all, it was home renovations and a shared love for their hometown that started their friendship in the first place. It all began in 2016 when Sara purchased a run-down cottage she intended to renovate and bring back to glory (Sara’s story of what led her to that decision and the remarkable journey it took is chronicled on her blog SimplySouthernCottage.com.) Two doors down, Sara’s new neighbor Rachel had recently completed her own home renovation.
“Rachel is from Minden,” Sara explained. “She moved away and then moved back and renovated her house. At some point, Rachel shared all her contractors and team with me. After that we just started realizing we both have this incredible heartbeat for Minden.” The two new friends began having regular coffee visits at The Broken Bean, planning and dreaming about all the things Minden could be.
“There’s a lot of potential in Minden,” Rachel said. “We’ve got a great downtown, we have a beautiful historic district, and our people are so great, too. I think that we just needed a little kickstart to get going, to have a larger way to inspire our community.”
The first application the women submitted to HGTV didn’t get chosen, but when the network put out another call, they applied again and this time Minden was selected to appear on Home Town Kickstart, a spin-off of the hugely popular show Home Town. The new series selected six small towns in need of a “major boost to re-energize revitalization efforts and realize a much-needed fresh start,” exactly what Sara and Rachel hoped to bring to Minden.
Getting selected was the first hurdle. Becoming, essentially, location producers for the show when it started production was a whole new challenge for the friends to tackle. Although they must remain tight-lipped until the show airs later this spring, they were allowed to verify that the show has wrapped up filming. HGTV has advertised that the renovations will include three projects that “refresh the home of a local hero, give a small business a beautiful upgrade and reinvigorate a public space to… engender community pride.”
For Sara, who is also a tourism commissioner for Webster Parish, promoting tourism to her hometown is the primary goal of all these efforts. “I am most excited about bringing awareness to Minden and bringing people into our community to shop our businesses, eat at our restaurants, stay at our lodging facilities,” she said. “I want to continue to help our community prosper.”
For Rachel, a Minden native and mother of two, she hopes the project continues to inspire others to love their small town like she does. “I’m excited to see our community really step up a little bit,” she said. “Throughout this process, Sara and I talk about building a legacy, that’s really at the forefront of my mind. What’s this going to do for my children if they want to come home one day? I want that to be an option on the table.”