By: Shilo Urban
It’s been two years since Andy and Ashley Williams have taken a vacation — mostly because the Fort Worth couple has been busy running their real estate business, Recon Realty, and more recently, filming episodes for HGTV’s “Flip or Flop Fort Worth,” which took up most of their 2017.
Things have calmed down a bit since filming wrapped last October. Season one aired November to January. As of press time, the Williams haven’t been contacted for a second season (yet, anyway), so they’ve shifted their focus back to building their business; training their new Daisy puppy, Coconut; and planning a long-overdue family vacation with their two kids, 5-year-old Ashton and 4-year-old Amina.
The goal for this year: Disney World.
“No,” Andy says emphatically during an interview.
But Ashley’s determined to go: “We want to do Disney — I want to do Disney.”
That’s Ashley (she herself admits she’s always had a more direct personality). She wants the full shebang: Mickey ears, princess dresses, all of it. It’s just one of the ways the Williamses are catching their breath after a whirlwind experience filming “Flip or Flop Fort Worth,” in which they flipped 10 houses in the course of 12 weeks. “[The TV world] goes a lot faster … the entire year, last year, was such a blur,” Ashley says.
The couple is still set on rehabbing neighborhoods through Recon Realty, running the company out of coLAB, the coworking space on Carroll Street in the Linwood area. But the company’s focus reaches a grander scale than flipping homes. The company was birthed from Ashley’s experience transitioning from military to civilian life — Ashley, an Army veteran, and Andy, a former Marine, met in Baghdad in 2005 and married in 2009. When they returned to the U.S., Andy worked in real estate, while Ashley, who has a degree in health care administration, got a job at an elderly care and assisted living facility. But she had difficulty adjusting to the environment and company culture, as co-workers would describe her as “intense” — she always had a direct personality after all.
“I’m not a disabled veteran or anything of that nature, but I am the typical veteran that didn’t transition well,” Ashley said. “That was the beginning of Recon.”
So, with Andy’s help (in fact, he wrote the resignation letter himself and went with Ashley to hand deliver it to the company), Ashley left her job and joined her husband in real estate. Recon launched in 2015 with two missions: to rehab houses, for one, but also to help veterans transition to civilian life by teaching them the ins and outs of real estate and land ownership. And, working with a team of mostly veterans, the company also recreates the camaraderie that only veterans know.
“We expose them to the entire industry, but then we deploy them to programs where they can either build their small business or go to an entrepreneurial path … Our challenge to each one of them is, when they’re ready, within maybe five years, go buy a piece of America,” Andy says.
At first, Recon was just Andy and Ashley. After “Flip or Flop Fort Worth,” more veterans reached out, and five were added to the team. The goal is to have 50 team members that will not only work for Recon but commit to buying 50 properties within five years and, eventually, become independent developers themselves.
“We don’t want them to work for Recon; go start your own business,” Andy says.
But Andy makes it clear: Recon isn’t a charity. “At the end of the day, veterans are unique people — different, because we have different experiences,” he says. “But Ashley and I are not going to accept the current narrative that we’re charity cases, we need help. We want to change that with a positive impact on just a few.”
Recon currently focuses on rehabbing homes in neighborhoods like Stop Six and Como. “There are overlooked neighborhoods that we want to spotlight,” Andy says. “There are some cool communities in Fort Worth; they just need love.”
They’d like to do “Flip or Flop Fort Worth” again if asked, but right now, they have enough on their plates as is — a family to raise, a business to run and a new mission right at home.
“We’re going to get back to normality … we have a lot of work ahead of us,” Andy says.
By: Shilo Urban