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Former Sioux Cityan featured on Magnolia Network's 'First Time Fixer'

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On Nov. 12, Alison Storm Lowry had a backyard watch party and invited all of her friends and family to see a new TV show, "First Time Fixer."

After all, it wasn't every day that a family's journey into first-time home renovation is documented for a national TV audience.

"We put up a big screen, hired a band, and even served a cake that looked like our house," Lowry, a Sioux City native who now resides in Greenville, S.C., explained a few days later. "It was awesome."

Indeed, she said people are amazed at her acumen at pinching pennies.

"I consider my frugality to be my secret power," Lowry said with a chuckle.

But to be fair, those who knew her best knew she was cheap.

"I prefer to think of myself as thrifty as opposed to cheap," she suggested. "I'm not above doing some dumpster diving as long as it is for something nice."

However, Lowry knew that she, husband Tim, their 9-year-old son Sammy and 6-year-old daughter Phaniella, were quickly outgrowing their family home.

Searching for affordable housing in idyllic Greenville, S.C., proved challenging.

"Everything was out of our price range," Lowry said, sighing at the memory. "We had to buy a small place and fix it up ourselves."

In early 2020, the Lowrys discovered a property that had once been a small church.

"You had to use your imagination but I could picture a living space where pews once sat, and a bedroom that once held a pulpit," she said. 

As they were getting ready for some demolition, Lowry saw a casting call ad for a new television show called "First Time Fixer."

Featured on the Magnolia Network -- a joint media venture between Discovery, Inc. and "Fixer Uppers" Chip and Janna Gaines -- "First Time Fixer" showcases first-time renovators as they build the home of their dreams.

"The producers wanted to feature us on an episode of their show," Lowry said. "Plus they wanted us to record every step of our renovation, both the good stuff and the bad stuff, to be used as footage."

"First Time Fixer: Taking on a Carolina Clunker" -- featuring the Lowry Family -- premiered on Nov. 12. The episode can be seen at magnolia.com and discoveryplus.com

Between the end of October 2020 until February 2021, the Lowrys lived a "Truman Show"-type of existence, taping their progress with camcorders and cellphones.

Surprisingly, this wasn't a stretch for Lowry, a former television news reporter who began her career at Sioux City's KTIV.

However, living in house that was part home/part reality show set wasn't always comfortable for Tim Lowry, who owns an online marketing business.

"To be honest, we were both new to home renovation," Lowry said. "I like watching how-to TV shows and Tim became addicted to YouTube videos. we got through it OK."

Still, there were a few mishaps along the way, such as a disappearing contractor as well as an IKEA kitchen cabinet that came incomplete.

"During a renovation, you learn to be flexible," Lowry said. "There is nothing wrong with going with Plan B."

She also had to be flexible when it came to the budget for the family's fixer-upper.

"We originally set a budget of $30,000 to $35,000 to redo our two bedroom/one bathroom house," Lowry noted. "We actually ended up spending $40,152 on the house. Yeah, I know how much we spent down to the dollar because it was very tight."

In the end, she was able to take a former church and turn it into a one-of-a-kind dream house.  

"This house is so much better than your typical turn-key home," Lowry said. "That's because we've invested so much sweat equity into the house in the form of sleepless nights and altered plans."

Since "First Time Fixer" aired, Lowry said she's even gotten a few referrals.

"I've always wanted to try my hand at home renovations," she said. "Who knows? Since I now have those skill sets, I may even tackle on a new project for myself or for the people that I know."

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