Dave and Jenny Marrs never set out to be the stars of a TV show. But the subjects of “Fixer to Fabulous,” a HGTV home makeover show set in Bentonville, found a way to use their show for their communities here in Arkansas and halfway across the world.
The focus of their show is renovating historic homes — restoring and celebrating the original bones of the home while modernizing the style and bringing the home up to safety standards. They work on multiple houses at the same time, completing each restoration within five to six weeks. The show began in 2019, but they’ve been building homes for much longer than that.
BUILT FOR A PURPOSE
The couple moved to Bentonville and started Marrs Developing in 2004; they’ve built nearly 30 homes a year since then. Dave and Jenny had no idea that 14 years later, they’d be approached for the show, but they’ve found they can use the opportunity it provides for a great purpose.
The Berry Farm is a community-oriented event venue on the Marrs' family property (their home was built in 1905 and they had to physically move it out of the heart of town to their land.). The farm functions not only for events but as a space to teach local teens trade skills. The farm also partners with HelpOne Now to provide that same training to children in Zimbabwe.
“What we’re super passionate about is training teens and providing them with trade skills so that they have a skillset to make a difference in their communities and their lives,” Jenny says. “That’s what we’re passionate about, and that is why we did the show — to be able to share about that work. It’s the biggest driver for what we do.”
The Marrs family wants all kids in the U.S., Zimbabwe and everywhere in between to know that there is no shame in becoming a farmer, welder, craftsman or following any skilled trade path. College is not the only path to success.
A SOLID FOUNDATION
Dave started in construction at 13 years old with his dad who was a builder in Colorado. However, he had no plans to build things long-term. Dave studied speech and communications and planned to give the corporate world a shot. Pretty quickly, he realized that he missed building.
“My creative side wasn’t being used,” Dave says. “I decided to get back into it here in Arkansas. Jenny and I started with one house, then it was two, then four, and then, it just grew from there.”
“If you want to be an artist and create, or work on houses, or do plumbing or electrical, there is such a demand for that and it's something that, through good times and bad, you have work and you have a job, and it's something to be proud of,” Dave says. “So, I would just hope that whatever a kid decides to do, make it something that you enjoy and that you love.”
A SKILLED CREW
Jenny studied advertising and communications and thought she was going to be a writer, but she finds that her creative vision has been an asset for home design. Jenny is known for pushing the envelope with unique, one-of-a-kind ideas for every home, and Dave is the expert craftsman, builder and general contractor that can make them happen. Together, they make a great team.
But they also rely on the help of many local subcontractors, skilled craftsmen and artisans.
“We love our community and we love highlighting people in our community who are doing good work,” Jenny says. “We love including personal and unique and one-of-a-kind touches into homes so that it's something that's not just mass-produced. We are small business owners and we come from a family of small business owners, so we think it’s really important to support our local craftsmen and artisans.”
They have built strong relationships with many Bentonville subcontractors, some they’ve been working with for upwards of 15 years. Some of the trades that are the most in-demand in their industry are those requiring licenses, such as electricians, plumbers and HVACR technicians.
“Not everyone can just jump in and do it, you have to [train] to do it. The demand and the cost and the pay for all of those jobs are higher than what you may see for other jobs. Not to take anything away from other craftwork, it’s just harder to get into the electrical or plumbing trades.”
BEHIND THE SCENES
Restoring a home is a challenge in and of itself. When you work under the time constraints that the Marrs family must meet for the show, while also facing supply shortages caused by the pandemic, it can be challenging to complete a home within the filming window.
“For me, the hardest thing is that the production crew also has a job to do,” Dave says. “They are trying to produce a show. So, to have all of my subcontractors shut down continuously because they don't want noise or they need to get a shot and we need to redo something — that can be frustrating and hard. But at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to get a job done.”
Despite the challenges and occasional frustrations, they love doing the show for how it enables their nonprofit work and gives them a chance to celebrate the Northwest Arkansas community
“We get the rare opportunity to be a part of so many family’s stories,” Dave says. “We get to come in and create unique spaces for them, or help them out with something they’ve been trying to get done for a long time or create a space they didn’t even dream of—and those are stories that are going to be told for a long time; it's a privilege to be a part of that.”