Jamey Ice and Jimmy Williams are friends, neighbors, business partners and soon-to-be real estate moguls.
The two besties since high school have been flipping houses in Fort Worth’s Fairmount area. Recently, they added The 411, a commercial space at 411 S. Main St., to five houses they have bought since the beginning of the year.
This is the work of 6th Ave Homes (www.6thavehomes.com), their turnkey operation of buying, rehabbing and selling properties south of downtown Fort Worth.
Since 2014, they have gone from fixing up one home to renovating 36. Their track record is just short of fantastic. They are willing to buy the most disgusting, filthy, absolutely hideous houses and turn them into beauties that usually sell long before the “ta-da” moment.
They post their progress on Instagram and Facebook, and buyers respond.
And, yes, the television production companies have come calling.
Both 32, Ice and Williams are young, handsome and good-natured. Ice is a guitarist with Green River Ordinance; Williams is a police detective with the city of Fort Worth.
Their quixotic story, plus their effervescent personalities, seemed a natural for television. A contract was signed. The production crew showed up. There was a problem, though. The producer wanted drama, bickering and discord. Ice and Williams declined to generate a fictitious feud.
“We don’t ever get in fights,” Ice says. “They wanted us to do fake stuff.”
The men work together harmoniously, and harmony was not what the producer wanted.
“They were only interested in what would sell a television show,” says Ice. The contract was canceled. Williams says they are now free agents but haven’t ruled out a possible television connection. But it will have to be on their terms.
“We want it to be about the heart of restoration,” Ice says.
Ice and Williams say they think restoration is more than a new coat of paint; it’s a holistic approach to living.
“The idea of restoration is bringing life and potential into everything and everyone — with your spouse, your kids or business partner. Restoration is about reconciliation and accommodation. We believe that,” Williams says.
This belief in the goodness of intent fuels their vision. They see hope in the most derelict of dwellings. “We are not scared to take risks and take houses that no one else will touch,” Williams says. “There is potential in everything.”
Indeed, some of the houses they have tackled seemed beyond repair. But they have learned that the ravages of time are salvageable.
Ice was given a summer’s tutorial on house renovation by a homeless man named Carl, a former veteran and contractor who agreed to help him fix up his home.
Ice had met Carl through his wife, Melissa, director of TheNET, a local nonprofit that addresses homelessness and poverty by helping people form support networks. As its website states, “We believe that people need people more than they need stuff.”
After helping the Ices fix their house, Carl was off the streets and Ice had remodeling skills. “He taught me how to Sheetrock, how to tile, how to redo wood floors. We redid my entire house,” Ice says.
Williams learned building trades by helping his father and grandfather, who were Fort Worth police officers and took on masonry work to earn extra income. Williams remembers helping his dad mix concrete and carrying bricks for his grandfather when he was no more than 5 years old.
Over the years, Williams’ father expanded bricklaying into crew work, contracting and, eventually, developing subdivisions in Aledo. Williams watched and learned.
Ice and Williams met on a church mission trip to Guatemala when they were in high school. The muscular jock from Aledo teamed up with the skinny, long-haired musician from Paschal, and they’ve been best friends ever since.
They went to TCU together; both left in their junior year — Ice, for a recording contract with Capitol, and Williams, to join the police force. They both married young and began families. They live across the street from each other on Sixth Avenue in Fairmount.
In their 20s, the friends would spend evenings imagining what they could do to make the world a little better. That’s how theNET was born, and it’s how they fell into renovating. Ice knew of a house on their street that was in foreclosure, so they decided they would buy it and fix it up.
They pooled all their savings, and it came to just $5,000. If they were going to buy the house on the courthouse steps, they would need the entire purchase price immediately. They put down their nonrefundable $5,000, got the house and then began scrambling. They called everyone they knew who might be willing to lend them money. By scavenging and taking out a short-term, high-interest loan, they were able to cobble together the remaining $100,000.
They sold the refurbished house 90 days later.
“We went from one house to nine within six months,” Ice says. “Our wives thought we were nuts.”
Friends began asking for their help in remodeling. “Indirectly, that’s how 6th Ave Homes started,” Williams says.
Some of their first homes were loyal to the period in which they were built. If penny tile had been used in the bathrooms, they would replace it with the same. They don’t replace newel posts just because the edges are rounded with the wear of generations. They try and save as much of the original material as possible.
“We preserve what we can, and when we can’t, we put in new stuff,” Ice says. Sometimes the new additions have a modernist edge, and their target demographic of first-time, home-buying millennials has responded favorably.
The seasoned team recently expanded 6th Ave Homes to include on-staff Realtors and contractors, plus bankers and mortgage lenders on speed-dial to facilitate more buying, selling and renovating.
The expansion removes them from much of the hands-on construction.
“As you grow a company, you do what you are good at. We are good at finding homes,” says Ice, who claims his particular strengths are marketing and expanding the company.
Williams takes credit for managing people and troubleshooting. “I think we are both good at encouraging people and showing them what they are good at,” he says.
They take immense pride in the mark they are leaving on Fairmount. “We have made this neighborhood better,” Williams says. “We are a small part; there are neighbors working hard, too. We want to do our part to make it better.”
Gaile Robinson is a Fort Worth freelance writer.
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