A local builder gets a national spotlight on a major cable and satellite network

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Kelbe Cronen, here both on the screen and in person, at the showing of his HGTV TV episode at Woodstocks Pizza Roma this summer. He and his crew hold beersiness meetings every Friday to go over the weeks work, he says. As a child growing up in Bend, Kelbe Cronen's parents bought houses to fix up to rent or sell.

From age seven on, young Cronen worked alongside the adults, helping with demolition and cleanup. By the time he was twelve he had worked his way up to sawing and pounding nails. After high school, his first job was framing houses, followed by studying architecture at Central Oregon Community College – where he took night classes and worked as a carpenter during the day. Then he came to Portland to attend PSU for a degree in marketing, while doing construction jobs on the side.

Cronen, these days a Woodstock resident, is an example of how influential parents can be on their children when they involve them in constructive (no pun intended) activities.

Now, at age 41, Cronen has a strong work ethic, and has run his own business – Cronen Building Company – for nine years, as general contractor and designer. He and his crew do work on residential remodels and commercial build-outs. He praises the work of his small but tightly knit crew: Tim Goodwin, lead carpenter; Mike Calhoun, carpenter and excavator; and George Crosland, project manager.

Cronen is also an example of how sometimes surprising things can happen to people who work with perseverance and passion.

In April 2016, Indigo Films, an independent television production company based in San Rafael, California, learned about Cronen from his website. They contacted him and said they were developing a new show concept for HGTV ("Home and Garden Television") and asked if he was interested in discussing it further. (A 24-hour cable and satellite channel, HGTV gives viewers ideas for remodeling and decorating their homes.)

Cronen thought he had nothing to lose, but he really never thought he would hear from them again. "Sometimes weeks would go by, and I thought, 'well, that was pretty cool, …talking with a production company about having my own show'."

However, they did contact him again, and finally – after many phone calls and Skype interviews – a homemade video was made, followed by a pilot episode made in Portland which wrapped up in March of this year. A pilot episode is what is presented to a network as a sample episode, to sell a television series.

On August 31st, Cronen and his crew gathered at Pizza Roma in Woodstock to see the nationwide premiere of their pilot episode "Renovation Whisperer" – live on HGTV.

Work crew, family, and friends watched the thirty-minute show, which showed two local homeowners discussing remodeling changes with Cronen. On the HGTV episode, the homeowners are kept away from the resulting remodel until it is done – and they have a revealing walk-through, caught in real time on camera to capture their reactions.

Prior to the HGTV premiere, Cronen showed a DIY Network premiere (HGTV and DIY are co-owned networks) at the Moose Lodge at 52nd Avenue and Flavel Street in the Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood on August 26th. Some sixty-five people attended – including the same family, friends and co-workers – to watch the show there. Cronen explained to the crowd how he and his crew worked 14 to 16 hour days to make the featured remodels happen in only five weeks – work that would typically take about two months.

So far the network has not bought the series, but Cronen is fine with that. Cronen is proud of his Cronen Building Company, but is quick to credit his family for his exposure to the building trade.

"I spent a lot of time as a kid tinkering in the garage with my dad's tools and materials. I realize now that I learned a lot in those early years, and as a kid I really looked up to the adult carpenters who could drive a nail with one hit, and cut wood with a Skil saw using only one hand. I wanted to be just like them when I grew up." And so he is.

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