RAYMOND -- Thanks to their own reality TV show on The Learning Channel, Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein of "The Little Couple'' have become household names across the country.
People in west central Minnesota might be surprised to know that a couple with ties to this area has had a big role in building the new home that has been the subject of so many recent episodes on this popular docu-drama.
Gail Facundo is a Raymond High School graduate and daughter of Gordon and Elaine Blom of Raymond. She is the other half of Facundo Home Builders Inc. of Houston, Texas. Her husband, Miguel, built the new, custom home for The Little Couple and is seen on many of the episodes.
The Little Couple airs every Tuesday at 9 p.m. on The Learning Channel and follows the lives of Arnold and Klein in Houston, Texas. She is almost 3-feet tall, and he is 4 feet.
Miguel Facundo built many features in the home designed to meet their needs. Kitchen cabinets stand just over two feet tall.
Individual stairs are shorter than standard height, so there are more steps between floors. In the bathroom, what appears to be a bottom drawer in a cabinet is actually a step-up that can be pulled out when needed.
Many of the features were suggested by Arnold and Klein, but the overall design of the home is trademark Miguel Facundo. He has made a reputation in Houston, Texas, for his custom homes. They are known for their beauty and quality, and more. Facundo emphasizes the importance of strength and solidity in a home.
Gail Facundo said Arnold and Klein moved into the home last July. There were episodes that focused on the building process and of course, the big move-in day.
She said her husband gained his construction experience growing up and working as a young adult with his father, who often took on large, commercial projects.
Their opportunity to be part of "The Little Couple" came by good fortune. One of their neighbors works with Dr. Arnold, M.D., at the Texas Children's Center, where she is a medical director. Arnold had mentioned how she and her husband were looking for someone to build a home to fit their needs.
"They just called Miguel out of the blue,'' said Gail. She said they really liked Miguel once they met him, and things went from there.
Similarly, there was an element of chance and good fortune in how Gail and her husband met. After graduating from Raymond High School, she earned a degree at St. Cloud State University and taught art in White Bear Lake until budget cuts led to staff reductions. She moved to Texas for a teaching job, and one day bumped into her future husband as she left a restaurant and he walked in.
They are now the proud parents of three children.
Since 2000, Gail has been handling the office side of the business and she no longer teaches.
She said her husband had to keep information about the house confidential until the television shows aired. Building the house also required him to devote lots of extra time at the job site for the sake of filming.
The recent broadcast of the show has provided the kind of marketing few home builders ever enjoy, both for good and bad. They received calls and emails from people all over the country with praise for the beautiful home and Miguel's work, along with inquiries about aspects of the project.
But at the same time, the shows have led some people to wrongly assume that the homes her husband builds will be too expensive for their budgets, she said.
She said their business has been doing well despite the housing down turn, and the company has a long line-up of remodeling and custom building projects for the coming year.
They also befriended and remain friends with Arnold and Klein, and her husband continues to take on projects for them.