Home Town Heroes

Vaughan-Bassett collaboration with Erin and Ben Napier is a union of shared values

By the time Erin and Ben Napier had completed the first season of their HGTV show, “Home Town,” with the highest rated pilot in the network’s history, they had been approached by several companies to design a furniture collection. Their agent promoted an extremely lucrative deal with an overseas firm. “It was a nonstarter. We wanted to partner with an American manufacturer,” said Ben.

“While I was in high school in Reidsville, NC,” said Ben, “my family would drive through furniture factory towns on our way to the mountains. The memory of seeing shuttered plants and hearing how the loss of a major employer had decimated families made a lasting impression on me. That’s why Erin and I have focused our lives on building up our hometown of Laurel, Mississippi. I did some research and discovered that Vaughan-Bassett had made the same commitment to Galax, VA. I knew we were meant for each other!”

This perfect match didn’t fall together quickly. “I asked my agent to reach out to Vaughan-Bassett in 2015 but he never did,” said Ben. “Two years later, I was in my pajamas in my living room at 8am Googling their phone number. The receptionist asked me which Mr. Bassett I wanted to talk to, and I didn’t know. Doug happened to be in his office, so we met. He invited us to October Market, but we had a conflict with a taping at HGTV. He agreed to call us on January 3, 2018, to set up a meeting.”

That day turned out to be momentous for two reasons. “I was at the hospital because Erin had just given birth to our daughter, Helen, three weeks early. When I saw the call from Doug, I told myself these were two big moments in my life and I had to be present for both. I ignored him and followed up two days later. He invited himself down to visit us in Laurel.” The trip was a success, with Bassett meeting Erin and their partners and close friends, Josh and Emily Nowell and Jim and Mallorie Rasberry, with whom they have opened several businesses in Laurel.

The next step in the “courtship” came six weeks later when the Napiers drove 11 hours to the factory with their newborn. “We stopped at the HGTV office in Birmingham to introduce the baby,” said Erin. “Once we got to Galax, we were inspired by the similarities between these two Southern towns where people were committed to keeping and creating jobs.” “It reminded me of my favorite movie,” said Ben. “’Tommy Boy’ is a comedy, but the story of a man trying to revitalize a plant to save a town always brings tears to my eyes. Saving their town is what Vaughan-Bassett has done as one of America’s last solid wood furniture manufacturers.”

The deal was finalized in April and the Laurel Mercantile Co. Home line was introduced by the Napiers in the Vaughan-Bassett showroom in October. The Scotsman American Heirloom Collection is a solid maple bedroom and dining group and the Laurel Mercantile Collection bedroom is crafted from hardwood solids and veneers. Each is offered in four finishes. A signature piece, the Elder’s Storage Bench, was designed by Ben, the son of two Methodist ministers, to resemble a church pew. Available in retail stores in January, the line’s introduction coincides with the start of the third season of “Home Town,” with its audience of over 1.8 million viewers.

“Erin, Ben, and Helen are now a big part of the Vaughan-Bassett family,” said Bassett, who joked that the relationship had gone from courtship to shacking up, as the Napiers bunked at his house during the power outage caused by Hurricane Matthew. “We’re glad we found each other! Our dealers are thrilled with the buzz generated about the line due to the show and the Napier’s enormous social media presence. Our employees are also very excited. We’re geared up for production at both our factories in Galax and Elkin, NC. I told Erin and Ben, “I dare you to outsell us!”