Breese and Josh Romano of Cobblestone Development will star in an HGTV pilot, "Rehabbing Richmond," in May. (Photo by Meghan McSweeney)
Move over, Chip and Joanna Gaines. This May, Breese and Josh Romano of Cobblestone Development Group are scheduled to bring “Rehabbing Richmond” to HGTV’s airwaves. The couple has been working on the show’s pilot since last August, documenting the total renovation of a 1927 home in Battery Park.
Set to air sometime in May, the hourlong pilot follows the Romanos and the Cobblestone crew as they modernize the home while restoring it to its previous glory.
The City of Richmond figures as a prominent character as the couple highlights local shops and makers, including a scene of them shopping at Caravati’s. “We have said from the beginning how amazing this could be for Richmond, highlighting the city and all the people in it,” Breese says. “This is a big opportunity for everyone in Richmond. We put in extra effort. We only get one shot.” Other business that receive a shout-out on the show include Shades of Light, Surface Architectural Supply, Siewers Lumber and Millwork and Boroughbridge Metal & Welding. Native Nest helped to stage the house when it was finished, using furniture from Class and Trash and Paisley & Jade and artwork from Studio Two Three.
While there are similarities to other HGTV shows, namely “Flip or Flop” and “Fixer Upper," the Romanos says their show also features Cobblestone’s employees and other family members, notably Josh’s father, John Romano, known to all as “Pops.”
“It’s like the ‘Duck Dynasty’ for flipping houses,” Josh jokes about the family dynamic.
Breese says the show has a more urban vibe than its competitors and that she believes it really shows what it takes to renovate a house. “It’s funny, but on all of these shows, the work just magically happens,” she says. “The crew did some beautiful camera work highlighting the steps of rebuilding a house.”
The down-to-earth, attractive duo seems ready-made for reality TV, and both say they enjoyed the process of filming the pilot. “We went into this thing thinking, ‘We’re not going to be anybody but ourselves,’” Breese says. “It helps to be natural when you love what you are doing.” And, she says, they were never directed in what to do or how to act. “They never set up any drama,” she says.
“The house was the drama,” adds Josh.
The show was produced by Seattle-based Screaming Flea Productions, which came to town about five times to shoot over three-to-four-day periods. Local film crews were also on the scene regularly to grab footage of the construction work. Screaming Flea also produces A&E’s “Hoarders,” which featured Richmonder Matt Paxton. Breese is friends with Paxton’s wife, and it was through this connection that Cobblestone Development was discovered by Screaming Flea.
Josh founded Cobblestone Development in 2013. His first project was renovating a duplex in Jackson Ward. He slept on an air mattress in the property as he worked on it, maxed out credit cards and found that he loves bringing back neglected properties. “I don’t cut corners,” says Josh, a Class A contractor and builder. “I go in assuming that everything needs to be done in these old houses … It’s not really a flip — it's a total remodel.”
Typically, he and his team will take a house down to the studs and replace all plumbing and electrical before rebuilding with modern amenities, replacing the original molding, flooring and trim. Wife Breese joined the business in 2014, serving as the designer on the firm’s projects and lending them a clean, modern farmhouse aesthetic.
Josh renovated and sold three houses in his first year of business and 20 houses in the second. Last year, Cobblestone worked on 45 homes from Windsor Farms to Church Hill with $13 million in sales. Over the past year they have doubled their staff, and have 28 homes underway so far in 2017.
If the show is picked up by HGTV as a regular series, the Romanos says they believe each episode will feature the renovation of one house. Typically, a season comprises 13 episodes. That’s a lot of houses, and a lot of work.
Josh says they're ready for whatever comes their way. “We’ve got a great team who can handle the everyday business while we take time to do the show,” he says. “But if it doesn’t work out, it was a fun opportunity. I’m still proud of our company and what we do.”