HGTV flipped for this Texas military couple

David Martindale
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

River Oaks, Texas — Television wasn’t part of the life plan for Andy and Ashley Williams.

The stars of “Flip or Flop Fort Worth,” HGTV’s new reality series, which premiered this month, merely happened to be in the right place at the right time.

It all started when Andy treated his wife to an island vacation in 2015 for her 30th birthday.

“We were there, just relaxing,” Ashley recalls, “and Andy found someone who was interested in talking business. They hit it off and we literally went through the whole vacation talking to him.”

Andy has a passion for buying neglected houses, renovating them and then selling them for sweet profits. He can talk for hours about his successful flips. He’ll whip out his cellphone and swipe through hundreds of before-and-after photos. That’s what he was doing with the stranger he befriended while on vacation.

Little did they know that this new acquaintance was in the television business.

“He never actually said what he did for a living,” Ashley says. “But one thing led to another. Then one day, Andy gets a phone call: ‘Hey, the show might be an option.’ Andy’s like, ‘The show? What show?’ And he says, ‘Well, I didn’t tell you. I pitched your show. People loved it.’

“After that, it was like a boulder rolling downhill.”

The couple — military veterans who met and married while serving in Iraq — were asked to make a “sizzle reel,” a short video pitching a potential series.

When network executives liked what they saw, the Williamses made a pilot episode in which they flipped a house in Hurst. It first aired on HGTV in February as “Flipping Texas.”

Next came the green light to make a full-on series, beginning with a nine-episode order and a new title that officially made it part of the network’s burgeoning “Flip or Flop” franchise.

“We’re excited, we’re lucky, we’re blessed.” Andy says. “But it’s a happenstance situation.”

Andy and Ashley Williams might have backed into television, but they’ve turned out to be an ideal fit for it.

“They’re so genuine and I love their chemistry together,” says executive producer Steven Alvarez (who knows a thing or two about telegenic personalities, having worked with Chip and Joanna Gaines when “Fixer Upper” was fast becoming a TV sensation). “They’re also really good at what they do.”

The couple married in August 2009. After settling in Fort Worth, they started a family. They have two young children, Ashton and Amina, who complete their “A-Team.”

As Andy far is concerned, what they’re doing isn’t just about flipping a property, pocketing a profit and moving on to the next score. He’s a big-picture kind of businessman with a larger world view.

“It’s very common for me to buy multiple houses in a single ZIP code,” he says. “Because a big thing with me is I want to be part of the team that helps revitalize an entire community.”

If you’ve seen even one episode of “Flip or Flop” or its spinoffs, you already know what to expect from “Flip or Flop Fort Worth.”

There’s a tried-and-true formula with the shows: In the span of 30 minutes, an enterprising couple scours the area for a diamond in the rough and turns the beleaguered property into a showplace for quick resell.

There’s often a panic moment or two along the way. Will this be the disaster that ruins our heroes financially? But usually there’s a happy ending in the form of a contract offer and substantial profit.

The original “Flip or Flop,” featuring Southern California-based Tarek and Christina El Moussa, launched in 2013 and quickly established itself as one of HGTV’s highest-rated programs.

Earlier this year, while Tarek and Christina were making tabloid headlines involving a marital breakup, the network announced plans to expand to other cities across America, beginning with “Flip or Flop Vegas” (which premiered in April) and “Flip or Flop Atlanta” (which began in July).

In the works for 2018, meanwhile, are “Flip or Flop Nashville,” “Flip or Flop Chicago” and “Flip or Flop Paradise” (in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California).

Ashley says they had no idea they were being considered for a “Flip or Flop” spinoff when they filmed that pilot episode in 2016. “We just thought it was a regular flipping show,” she says. “When it was announced, we were like ‘We’re going to be in the franchise? That’s crazy!’ ”

That said, maybe it was for the best that HGTV kept the Williamses in the dark.

“I’m a nervous Nelly,” Ashley says. “It definitely would have been extra pressure on me. So it was good to have a clean slate and not know. Plus, I love surprises. This was definitely a surprise.”

Andy and Ashley say they hope viewers will see Fort Worth as they see it: a great place to call home.

“I think our viewers will take away that Fort Worth is not just Stockyards and country living,” Ashley says. “It has so much more to offer. It’s really an up-and-coming city. I really want the show to put Fort Worth on the map as a destination to start moving here.”

Adds Andy: “I also want the people of Fort Worth to feel that we represent them well.”