The hit TV show Maine Cabin Masters returned earlier this year for its sixth season on the Discovery Channel’s DIY Network, and it is now going full speed into its seventh season. It is a reality show on which rustic cabins and lakeside camps are given much-needed renovations by the crew at Kennebec Cabin Company, based in Manchester, Maine. Prospective clients write in, describing their remote and run-down properties in Maine, and the lucky few selected get a cabin-makeover that might be decades overdue. The on-camera team includes designer Ashley Morrill; Ashley’s husband Ryan, described as “the voice of Reason”; the Boss, who is Ashley’s brother Chase Morrill; and other dedicated and skilled builders. Together they give deteriorated cabins a new lease on life, to say the least.
And somehow, they make all their hard work and problem-solving look enjoyable, while the neglected cabins go from being in a derelict state to state-of-the-art comfortable and gorgeous. How the Cabin Masters crew do what they do is impressive—and fun to watch, as the show’s legions of fans will testify.
It was a joy to talk with Ashley and also with Jen Reese, Cabin Masters’ invaluable Business Manager. They both gave me a chance to learn more about the show and those who make it happen. Together, this group of wonderful people pull off miracles, saving and transforming Maine cabins and camps—and the heritage that goes along with them.
Mary: I love your story. How long have you been doing the Maine Cabin Masters show?
Ashley: We are in our seventh season. It’s crazy. We never in a million years would have thought that it would have become this popular and taken off as it has. We’re very grateful for sure. Ryan and I will watch TV sometimes, and we’re like, “Oh my gosh, that’s weird. That’s us. We’re on TV!”
Mary: How did you start this?
Ashley: Chase and Ryan were builders, and they did one project together. Then Chase found out about the TV show, so they did a Skype interview together. He came back. He was like, “Hey, you guys want to be on a TV show?”
They were like, “Yeah, right, whatever,” and they did a Skype interview, and then they did a pilot, and then it just kind of snowballed from there.
Mary: Unbelievable. And everybody seems to get along so well!
Ashley: Oh yes, absolutely. I mean, we can get upset with each other, but we’ve always been so close that it always blows over, even though you might want to strangle somebody sometimes.
Mary: Now, there are two brothers and you’re married to one of them?
Ashley: Yes, I’m married to Ryan. My brother Chase is kind of like the lead of the show.
Mary: Do you feel comfortable with the TV and all this?
Ashley: Yes. Yesterday was my day off and it was raining out, so I knew that there’d be a lot of people over at our headquarters. I went over and just hung out for a while, so I could meet everybody because I know that we have people coming from all over the state . . . all over the country. It’s crazy.
Mary: I went to Florida to do an interview last winter and someone I met said, “Oh you’re from Maine, where the Cabin Masters are!”
Ashley: It’s weird. A lot of people in Maine have no idea that we exist. They find out about us from their friends that live outside of the state, which I think is hilarious.
Mary: It really is. Now have you had any national media attention on you?
Ashley: We went on a show with Kellie Pickler and Ben. It was a daytime talk show. We’ve had other little blips. Here in Maine, though, we have to buy our own show. They just started sending us a link that we can watch. I think that’s funny that we have to buy it.
Mary: And how are your families dealing with all of this?
Ashley: Oh, they love it. They love to promote us so much. They all wear our t-shirts every day, and they all say, “Oh, I’m Ryan’s dad,” or “I’m Ashley’s mom.”
Mary: Do you get a lot of fan mail?
Ashley: We get a ton of fan mail. Somebody just did a pastel of my two dogs, Gus and Charlie, and drove it up to an event that I was at and gave it to me. And it’s absolutely gorgeous! People mail us presents and letters and bring us stuff all the time.
Mary: That’s wonderful. And you’ve expanded into other businesses . . . a restaurant and entertainment?
Ashley: Well, we have got an awesome staff behind us. Like the manager of the restaurant. I used to bartend with him at Sugarloaf, so I’ve known him, I know how professional he is, and I know that we can trust him. He’s just doing an amazing job!
Mary: That is a lot.
Ashley: Yes! To open up a huge place like that, and to do everything without us there because we pretty much are off filming. We’re like, “Good luck, call us if you need us.”
Mary: Do you have a contract for a certain length for the show?
Ashley: This season we’re just about done with a cabin, so we’re in the process of signing a new contract.
Mary: They are going to continue with the show?
Ashley: Oh yes, definitely.
Mary: Does it ever scare you at all, that all this has happened so quickly?
Ashley: No. We would be doing this with or without the cameras. We weren’t after the fame, but once it got started, and we saw how it was really making people happy? We were like, “Wow, this is pretty cool.” We don’t want the Hollywood aspect of it. We want to continue to be ourselves. We want to continue to be Mainers. We don’t want to just think of ourselves as more than what we are.
Mary: And everybody is from Maine originally?
Mary: You haven’t been approached to be on the Good Morning America or the Today show yet?
Ashley: No, but we have somebody who has been working on that, and I don’t know if she’s maybe waiting for the new season to be announced.
Mary: How about your customers? Have you had people upset with you at all?
Ashley: These people know what they’re signing up for. They hand us over the key, and they give us free reign. They have a list of things that they would like to see done, but overall—in order to keep the budgets low—we need to have the ability to go find windows that are on sale here, or like some wood here or there, you know what I mean?
Mary: I do.
Ashley: By allowing us the freedom to make the choices, we keep the budgets lower. So, these people have to have a lot of trust in us. There might be one or two things that aren’t exactly how they wanted it, but overall they’re psyched about the entire project.
Mary: They have to sign off I’m sure, to go on this show?
Mary: And do you actually make a regular profit as if you are the contractor, or do you have to take a cut for the show?
Ashley: It pretty much it works out to be even. We’re definitely not making money off of the builds. But there are other ways that we’re able to do that by starting up other businesses.
Mary: Through your popularity?
Ashley: Yes, and we have side projects that are going to help us make money. Overall, the point is to keep budgets low and have homeowners get a really great product for not too much.
Mary: How many people watch the show, do you have any idea?
Ashley: Well, I’ve done my own just poking around and ratings are pretty high, but I wouldn’t want to say for sure because I don’t know the numbers. I read online that it got like 3.5 million viewers. But I don’t know in terms of overall, or just last season.
Mary: Does all that popularity affect your personal lives?
Ashley: It definitely affects your personal life. We can’t go out and not be recognized. You have to actually take in consideration what you’re doing and what you look like. Can’t go out in your pajamas! And there are times when I know I need to schedule extra time because I know that I’m going to end up seeing people and stopping and say hi. But overall? If anybody comes up to us, we’ll stop and take a picture and say hello. We never say no because it’s the fans watching that are the reason why we’re here.
Mary: That’s wonderful. Now, do any of you have children?
Ashley: My brother has four.
Mary: Oh, he does? So, you’re an auntie. Do you all live in the same town?
Ashley: Manchester is right outside of Augusta where our store and restaurant are. We all live within about 15 minutes of Manchester.
Mary: Do you socialize with each other when you’re not working?
Ashley: Oh, yes. We’re very close. We go to each other’s camps, we ski together, and we go and hang out at the restaurant together. Yeah, we’re always together.
It is really cool. We are extremely grateful, and we hope that we’re making the state of Maine proud.
For more information, please go to mainecabinmasters.com