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Local house renovators ready for TV spotlight

Jonathan Spiers March 9, 2017 12

Breese and Josh Romano in front of one of the homes they restored in Richmond's Northside. A different house in Battery Park is the focus of the episode they filmed for HGTV. (Jonathan Spiers)

Breese and Josh Romano in front of one of the homes they restored in Richmond’s Northside. A different house in Battery Park is the focus of the episode they filmed for HGTV. (Jonathan Spiers)

UPDATE: The pilot episode is scheduled to premiere May 7 at noon on HGTV. 

Breese and Josh Romano are about to get their close-up.

The husband-and-wife team behind local home renovation and construction firm Cobblestone Development Group recently wrapped filming on an hour-long pilot episode for a show that’s set to air on HGTV.

If received well by viewers when it premieres this spring, the locally filmed show, called “Richmond Rehabbers,” could be picked up as a 13-episode series. The Romanos said they have agreed to a full season if HGTV elects to continue with the show.

“It was a lot of fun,” Breese said. “It’s easy to make a show if you’re doing something that you love to do and you do it every day.”

Comparable to HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” the episode follows the Romanos and their crew during a four-month house renovation in Richmond’s Northside. The featured house – a two-story Foursquare built in 1919 – is located in Battery Park.

The couple, licensed real estate agents with Richmond-based One South Realty Group, worked with a family relocating here from Georgia who agreed to be featured in the episode. After being shown several options, the clients tell the Romanos what work they want done to the house they selected while working within a budget.

Clips show the Romanos shopping for materials at local architectural salvage depot Caravati’s, discussing the project with their team and providing their own commentary. The show also shines a spotlight on Richmond, with footage of Carytown, the city welcome sign along Interstate 95 and other local landmarks shown throughout the episode.

Filming took place in three-day increments from late August to early January. Seattle-based Screaming Flea Productions filmed the scenes with help from a local crew.

Josh Romano discusses the deck to be removed with a crew member during filming. (Courtesy Breese Romano)

Josh Romano discusses the deck to be removed with a crew member during filming. (Courtesy Breese Romano)

Screaming Flea also produces the A&E show “Hoarders,” whose host, Matt Paxton, is married to a friend of Breese, the Romanos said. Paxton, a Richmond native who recently launched a new startup, suggested the couple to HGTV, which reached out to them for an interview over Skype, they said.

A four-minute teaser was filmed over four days, and the Romanos said theirs was one of two from among 100 or so submitted that the channel selected to film a pilot. The Romanos said they received compensation for the show but did not disclose details.

Josh, who started Cobblestone five years ago after starting out with Trustworth Properties, said he is looking forward to the exposure the show will provide his business, as well as local subcontractors and vendors that he and Breese, the designer on the team, work with on projects. He said Cobblestone worked with more than 100 local businesses in 2016, including Surface Architectural Supply, Wellborn + Wright, Shades of Light and Caravati’s.

“We intentionally went above and beyond to try to showcase Richmond and make that the forefront of the show,” Josh said. “That’s the goal, if and when we go to series, is to incorporate other small businesses and figure out ways to bring them into the mix and really focus on what’s happening here in Richmond.”

Added Breese: “When we first got news that we were going to do a pilot, one of the first things we said was, ‘This is going to be so awesome for Richmond.’ We both love this city.”

They said the Battery Park house presented several challenges. Nearly a century old, the structure was stripped down to its studs and enlarged with a two-story addition, and a deck was demolished. The Romanos said their clients wanted an open floor plan and asked them to focus on the kitchen, their daughter’s bedroom and their master bathroom.

When it came time for the big reveal, Josh said the buyers were happy, and tears were shed.

“It was intense. It was a really great experience for all of us,” Josh said.

“It also refueled our passion for doing the houses, because we were more involved than we have been in the past, because we’re trying to build a business. It actually brings you back into the fold, and you see what the guys are up against and it makes you appreciate the guys who are out there in the field day in and day out.”

The family purchased the house in January for $330,000 – a significant jump from the $71,000 price Cobblestone paid for the property last May. The city’s latest assessment valued the 0.17-acre property at $175,000.

The Romanos said they’re hopeful that the show will be picked up for a series when the episode airs, likely sometime around May. Josh said the episode would air multiple times over the course of several weeks.

While the show wasn’t something the Romanos sought out, they said they’re excited about the opportunity for Richmond as much as their business.

“We hope that it will showcase the amazing things that Richmond has to offer,” Breese said.

While the first to be featured in their own show, the Romanos are not the only local real estate professionals to appear on HGTV. Several episodes of the channel’s “House Hunters” series have featured Richmond real estate agents showcasing local homes, including Cabell Childress of Glen Allen-based Cabell Childress Group and, most recently, One South’s Alexis Thompson, who appeared on the show last fall.

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12 Comments »

  1. jesse lennon March 9, 2017 at 8:03 am - Reply

    CONGRATULATIONS, JOSH & BREESE!

  2. Sara Marie Williamson March 9, 2017 at 8:51 am - Reply

    Congratulations on the pilot and best of luck for the series.

  3. NICOLE LEE March 9, 2017 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    when will this air ??

  4. Steve & Cindy Willis March 9, 2017 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    We met Josh several years back when he was just “getting his hands dirty” with one of his first renovations. As renovators and new home builders ourselves, it was refreshing to meet someone new in the business with so much passion and drive. Josh has been a great friend ever since. Once he was lucky enough to meet, fall in love with and partner with Breese, we knew they would be a force of nature. Josh and Breese are a most genuine, sincere couple who really do have a love for historic Richmond, and are dedicated to delivering high quality renovations truest to their original glory. We are rooting for the both of you, knowing how hard you have both worked to build Cobblestone into what it is today. We can’t wait to see the show guys. Much love and respect from the both of us.

    Steve & Cindy Willis
    Premier Development Inc.

  5. Jared Davis March 9, 2017 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    Congrats Josh. Can’t wait to check this out when it airs.

  6. Isaac DeRegibus March 10, 2017 at 3:28 pm - Reply

    Josh and Breese, looking forward to the show! Congratulations! 🙂

  7. Leah Coleman March 11, 2017 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    Way to go, you two! This is awesome! I would definitely say you two have that ‘Chip and Joanna’ fixer upper love….but it’s so legit and super trendy too that it speaks for itself! Congratulations and so looking forward to seeing where this takes you and Richmond! And anything my husband and I can do to support, let us know! Again, congrats! Blessings abundant, The Coleman’s

  8. Kim Harkess March 29, 2017 at 12:03 am - Reply

    Thanks for bringing the spotlight to RVA! Congrats!

  9. Helen Morganti March 30, 2017 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    Can’t wait to see! There is also American Rehab, Virginia, in Northern Neck Warsaw area featuring a plantation that has been handed down through the generations. I love this couple! I don’t know them but have a home in the area.

    http://www.diynetwork.com/shows/american-rehab-virginia

  10. Richard Day April 3, 2017 at 9:48 am - Reply

    So exciting to see these neighborhoods brought back to life. This kind of activity is such a boost to not only homes and neighborhoods in the way of human capital, but also a significant economic driver. Great job Josh and Breese!

  11. robert pettus April 4, 2017 at 10:25 am - Reply

    It would be interesting to see the appraisal on that home. Definitely a value outlier in Battery Park area.

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