“When we finished college we weren’t planning to come back here,” Ben told the publication. “We had talked about living in Memphis or Birmingham, maybe going to Nashville. We even discussed how magical it would be to go to New York City and live and work for a little while.”
The couple met while attending the University of Mississippi. Upon graduation, they received job offers in Erin’s hometown, but seemingly without much opportunity for career growth, according to the publication.
“But then, as we were getting closer to graduation, and we knew we were getting married and starting our lives, it just felt right,” he continued.
Erin Called Moving Home the ‘Rebellious Thing’
As the “Home Town: Ben’s Workshop” host admitted to People, they also worried moving home would look like admitting defeat to their peers.
As he said, “I think the stigma [of returning home] is that it’s a sign of giving up. ‘Oh, you settled. Oh, you couldn’t cut it, and you were too scared to go to the big city, so you came back.’”
“The more rebellious thing is going home,” Erin explained to the outlet. “When you’re young, you think the world is so much better if you could just get away from home—that the grass is always greener—but it’s just not. Everywhere has problems. You can either complain about them and leave, or you can stay and do something about it.”
And do something about it they have, renovating more than 80 homes in Laurel and ushering an uptick in tourism thanks largely to their show’s popularity.
“It just felt like a moment where you can either run away from what you don’t like or you can be a part of making it better,” the 36-year-old added.
Ben saw moving home as “way more of a risk than moving to a city.” He continued, “We came back, and in those first few years, nothing was going on in Laurel. But we didn’t focus on that. We focused on making things happen.”
The couple also co-owns two local businesses: Laurel Mercantile Co. and Scotsman General Store, with People reporting a third storefront is on its way. Ben also recently announced the opening of a factory in Laurel to manufacture butcher blocks under their brand.
The Napiers Are Trying to Give Their Daughters a Reason to Return to Laurel
And now renovating the town they have made famous has taken on new meaning with the birth of their daughters: Helen, 3, and Mae, 7 months.
“I want them to travel and see the world, but I want them to come back home and do something important here to really contribute,” Erin told People. “If all the young people leave the places that they’re from, that’s when towns die.”
Ben added that they want their daughters to have a reason to return. The 38-year-old said, “Honestly, that’s why we’ve done so much of what we’ve done: We want our kids to grow up in a place that feels magical.”