By Heather Cass Publications & Design Coordinator, Penn State Behrend
Though we humans put a lot of thought and care into planning our future, the simple fact is that life can change on a dime. Single moments, simple choices, and chance meetings can lead us down a different path to a whole new life.
Such has been the case for Penn State Behrend alumnus, Troy Dean Shafer ’04, founder and owner of Nashville Flipped, a historical home restoration business in Nashville, Tennessee, who is the subject of a new HGTV show created by American Pickers star Mike Wolfe. The pilot episode of Nashville Flipped is scheduled to air on HGTV this Thursday, March 19, at 11 p.m., eastern standard time
Walmart detour leads to HGTV show
Wolfe and Shafer became friends after a fortuitous meeting at a Tennessee Walmart.
“I was picking something up for my wife when I heard an overhead announcement that Mike was there signing autographs,” he said. “I was a fan of the show, so I wandered over to meet him. We talked and I gave him a copy of my business card. To my surprise, he said he’d heard about my business. He said he was buying a historical building in downtown Nashville and asked if I’d come take a look at it for him.”
Shafer happily agreed and even did some work to help stabilize the building, which Wolfe converted to retail space.
The two became fast friends as they share a passion for preserving history—Wolfe through artifacts, Shafer through architecture.
Building on a Black School of Business Degree
You may remember Shafer from a story in the January 2013 Behrend Magazine, or you may remember him from the early 2000s when he spent four years at the Black School of Business earning a degree in Business Management.
Here’s the foundation of Shafer’s story: The son of custom-home contractor, Shafer grew up around the construction industry and planned to be an architect. Fearing an architecture degree would be too limiting, he went the business route at Behrend, a decision that would serve him well later. He moved to Nashville after graduation to try his hand at a singing career. While his music career blossomed (he served as a backup signer on some impressive concert tours), his business acumen and life-long love for old houses and architecture, led him to begin “rescuing” historic homes in his spare time and he founded Nashville Flipped, a home renovation business.
“I’m saving historic homes that other people would just raze,” he said. “I gut the house and rebuild it with all the latest amenities, while preserving the architecture and character of the house.”
Bucking the trend
He renovates about a dozen houses a year with the help of a handful of employees and a variety of subcontractors. He does a lot of the work himself, as you’ll see on the pilot episode of Nashville Flipped, where he works with interior designer Alexandra Cirimelli to renovate a 1932 craftsman-style bungalow in East Nashville.
“It’s in a historic part of Nashville called Cleveland Park. I bought it at an auction and actually got into a bit of a bidding war over it,” he said with a laugh. “I loved the style and feel of it. It had original moldings and door handles and built-in bookshelves. It had so much character and it needed to be saved.”
Shafer bucks the trend of many developers in East Nashville who buy old properties, tear down the house and build three more in its place.
“I’ve built a bit of a fan base because I do the exact opposite,” Shafer said. “I save the old houses when nobody else wants to put that kind of work into them.”
Labor of love
Shafer isn’t afraid of the work. It’s safe to say he loves it. He has a genuine affection for the homes he restores.
“I think about the future of that house—the newborn baby that might be brought home to it, the Christmas tree that will fit perfectly in that front window, the driveway where a kid may learn to ride a two-wheel bike. . .,” he trails off, then adding, “It’s cool to be a hidden part of those future memories.”
Shafer is the real deal. He says Wolfe is, too.
“He is absolutely the same guy you see on television,” Shafer said. “He’s one of the most intelligent, passionate people I’ve ever met.”
Together, the two are sure to build a show HGTV viewers will flip for.
Home History 101
Nashville Flipped will be unlike any other home renovation show because there will be a heavy emphasis on the history of the house, the surrounding neighborhood, and even interviews with past residents.
Shafer won’t know until late this summer if the network will order more episodes of Nashville Flipped.
“They will air several different pilots over the next few months to see what sticks,” Shafer said, “so the more people who watch the show and watch the reruns or talk about the show, the better chance it has of being picked up.”
Tune in on Thursday at 11 p.m. (EST) on HGTV.