Monica Potter Evan Prunty Monica Potter Evan Prunty
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Monica Potter is at home. 

Her face glows as she stands in her brightly lit kitchen welcoming relatives, friends and employees who begin to fill up every nook and cranny of the cozy kitchen lined with shiny white cabinets and a wood island.

“It’s so nice to meet you,” she says to guests with a light nod and soft handshake. “Make yourself at home.” 

With an easy smile that warms the entire space, she carefully adjusts plates of appetizers, dainty three-tiered trays of desserts and a platter of fresh fruits and crackers while making sure everyone has a drink in hand. “We’re going to eat soon,” Potter assures her guests.

Everyone’s gathered here for a homecoming of sorts. The 45-year-old Cleveland native and former Parenthood actress bought her childhood home in North Collinwood back in May 2014. Along with her mother, Nancy Brokaw, and her three sisters — Jessica, Bridgette and Kerry — Potter embarked on a seven-week renovation that was filmed this summer by HGTV crews for the six-episode series Welcome Back Potter

The third and fourth episodes, which show the sisters redesigning their former bedrooms, bathroom and restoring their back porch, airs this crisp and cool October night. The family has reunited for the first time since completing the tedious process in August that took the 1,800-square-foot, four-bedroom home from an abandoned space painted barnyard red to a bright white house with a country chic theme. 

With its red and navy accents, the house has a patriotic flair. Inside, the sisters’ goal of creating an open, spacious feel was accomplished by using pastel colors and installing several large windows and French doors throughout. 

Several rooms have been converted to bedrooms, outfitted with vintage furniture, so their family can stay here when in town.

But more than just giving the house a cosmetic makeover, the family has had a chance to reconnect with a piece of their cherished past.

“We had a great childhood,” Potter says. “We came back here for the memories.”

From the moment they sold the house and moved to Alabama, Potter has wanted to return. In the 30 years since, that feeling has only grown stronger.  

But Potter didn’t approach her sisters with her big idea until 2012. As they were drinking, laughing and reconnecting during Christmas, Potter asked her eldest sister Jessica. 

“I said, ‘Yeah lets do it!’ ” Jessica says. “Our other sisters were like, What are you? Freaking nuts?!” 

Although the idea seemed rather ambitious and a bit crazy, soon enough each of the women were on board and excited about the project. 

“It’s very blurry at this point, but that’s what we did,” says Jessica. “And now, it’s the best feeling in the world.” 


Tucked along the shores of Lake Erie, the two-story colonial has stood up to 92 bruising Cleveland winters and endured the ever-changing Collinwood neighborhood that once bustled with Irish, Italian and Slovenian immigrants. 

Its history is rooted deep in the long-lasting foundation. 

When Nancy and Paul Brokaw moved into the modest home in 1971, Nancy was just four days away from giving birth to Monica. Jessica was just 2 years old. Their youngest sisters, Bridgette and Kerry, were also born here in 1973 and 1978. 

During their childhood, the working-class neighborhood was like an extended family. The residents here took care of one another. 

Nancy made sure their home was well-kept and beautiful, crafting homemade decorations with the girls. Dinner was on the table every night at 6 p.m. sharp. And the girls always had their prized Bee Gees and Rick Springfield records to listen to in the sunroom overlooking the lake.

But the home wasn’t just where the family lived and gathered for meals each night. It was also where Paul found inspiration. 

An inventor who worked primarily out of the basement, he tinkered on ideas for tools and functional furniture. When he landed on a solid idea — such as his whiptail fishing lure — he’d take it to his small factory on St. Clair Avenue off Nottingham Road to be made. 

“I used to make the lure with him when I was 5,” Potter says. “He would work for companies where they would have a product and it would be good, but he would make it great. He would think differently.” 

Paul liked involving his daughters in his work. He showed them how to safely secure the sharp fishing hooks on the poles and to pour molds for baking pans they created. Potter spent time brainstorming and testing inventions with her father after school and during weekends. It instilled in her lessons of hard work and the importance of home and family. 

“He taught me attention to detail, to know how things work and why,” says Potter. “But the biggest thing was how to treat people.” 

In 1987, Paul took a job at Ryder in product development and the family relocated to Alabama. But that tiny house in Collinwood was filled with so many memories that it held a special place in Potter’s heart. 

“I looked at it the day we left in 1987 and I said, ‘I will buy this house back someday,’ ” says Potter.

When Paul died from cardiovascular disease in 2004, Potter and her sisters were devastated. Working together to renovate their childhood home was a tribute to their love and relationship with him. The girls used the fundamental skills they had learned from him growing up — like how to use a hammer and a drill — to restore their family home. 

“So many things happened during the renovation, and we felt my dad’s presence with us the whole time,” Potter says. “It was a spiritual, mental, physical and emotional journey.”

The sisters worked with a local construction crew to achieve the new goals for their old home. While professionals did much of the large-scale work, the sisters were involved in the demolition, design, landscaping and cosmetic development of the entire home. 

They approached the seven-week project room by room. They often would split into pairs — many times Jessica and Monica together, and Kerry and Bridgette together — tackling several projects each day. 

In almost every instance during the process, the women felt the emotional ties to those 16 years they spent in the home — each task bringing up memories and flashbacks from a simpler time. 

Take the narrow staircase near the front of the home: As they were painting the hardwood a dark maple brown and adding accents of teal wallpaper to each step, the sisters remembered Christmas and Easter mornings. 

Their parents would make the four of them squeeze together and sit at the top of the steps to wait until presents were sorted, coffee was brewed or the Easter eggs were hidden — a yearly, unloved tradition by the girls. 

“We had to sit there for 45 minutes,” says Jessica. “Up until I was 17 years old.”

They recalled holiday dinners as they refurbished and transformed their old brown dining table to a rustic and distressed white that fit the home’s country style. This was the same wood table where they ate Thanksgiving turkey or a Christmas roast. It was also where they would invite over the homeless to share a warm meal. 

“We didn’t have a lot growing up, but other people had less, so we would invite them over,” explains Potter. “My dad was generous to a fault. He would give you the shirt off his back if he could.”

But, the most emotional moment was going back into their father’s workspace. They rebuilt his basement workshop as an outdoor toolshed studio to remember him. It will also serve as a place where the sisters can think of their own ideas and work with their hands.

They had kept everything that was important to their father and they restored the things he used daily as an inventor such as his old toolkit, a tiny refrigerator where he kept his beer and his workbench where all his inventions were born. 

“They wanted to sand down the workbench and paint it,” explains Potter of the HGTV crew. “I saw all the imperfections and the paint on it, and I remembered what the paint was from, and I said, ‘I’m not painting over this.’ ”

While the sisters were reconnecting with their childhood during the project, they realized they were also given the opportunity to learn about each other and how their lives are now — an experience they are grateful for. 

But naturally, things can get tense spending day in and day out with family. “It was a lot of fun, but we were inches away from beating the crap out of each other every day,” explains Potter. 

But ultimately, it created a stronger bond between them.

“I saw how they raise their kids, their triumphs and tribulations and they saw mine,” Potter says. “When you live so far away, you become more sensitive to that.”


Cleveland has always been home. 

Although Potter lives in Los Angeles, she knew she would put down roots here again. 

With the start of Monica Potter Home in 2012, the actress created a shabby-chic line of skin care, essential oils, room sprays, hand-poured candles, rustic decor and more sold online. After three years, she opened her first store in Garrettsville on state Route 88 in the middle of a 35-acre apple orchard.

She felt it was only right to return to Northeast Ohio. 

“This is where my dad did it,” she says. “And it’s important that we continue.” 

The brand builds on her father’s legacy of hard work and lets Potter join forces with a community of local artisans in a Garrettsville workshop. More importantly, it was a place where Potter felt she could do some good.

A year before she opened her retail operation in Garrettsville, the downtown area suffered a fire that damaged several buildings and destroyed mainstay storefronts. Instead of looking elsewhere, Potter saw it as an opportunity to connect with and restore the community — much like she decided to do with her North Collinwood home. 

“These businesses have been here for 30 or 40 years, and I said, ‘Shit, what do we do?’ ” explains Potter. “I believe in the people here who are master artisans and skilled at what they do, and I wanted to help.”

Earlier this year, between renovating the house, filming and managing her original retail location, Potter opened a second store in the Arcade in downtown Cleveland. 

After realizing that area of the city was beginning to bloom, she launched the shop as a pop-up space just in time for the Republican National Convention. But it is now there to stay. 

“It was to show Cleveland what we’re doing,” she says. “And it was nostalgic for me — I remember going there as a kid.”

A few days after gathering her family and friends to watch Welcome Back Potter, she’s at home again. With her legs crossed, she takes a break from filming a video to use on social media to get her makeup touched up.

Beyond expanding her brand, Potter is looking for ways to develop and improve the city that she loves — even if it’s instructional videos showing her fans how to make a holiday bruschetta. 

“I’m trying to be here more,” she says. Like the neighbors on her tiny Collinwood street growing up, it’s a commitment that runs through family to community.

“Clevelanders are loyal to a fault,” she says. “Everyone here is like family.” 

She hopes to continue the neighborhood’s momentum by bringing back businesses to a vacant stretch in North Collinwood that includes the shuttered Jack Miklus Florist where she worked as a teenager. 

“That’s where I learned my skills for florals and home decor,” she says. “I want to open that whole boulevard — put stores and a workshop back there.”

Her enthusiasm for what’s next seems boundless. “Hopefully we can start little by little and neighborhood by neighborhood.”

Potter is ready to get back to filming. Her cheeks are rosy as she reminisces about the Christmases she’s spent in this very room, opening gifts and writing letters to Santa. 

Now it’s a place where her family will gather for the holidays. “It’s about being able to pass it down to our kids,” she says. “It’s a fresh beginning. In order to move forward you have to go back and that’s what we are doing.”

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