Reality TV stars who remodel historic Galveston homes open a

On any given day, Ashley and Michael Cordray could be painting a house, refinishing floors, installing windows or rebuilding a sagging porch on a historic home in Galveston.

As stars of the Magnolia Network’s “Restoring Galveston,” they’ve bought, restored and sold 36 historic homes on the island, plus a dozen or so more outside of the show. They even live in a home built in 1887 ⁠— yes, they restored it ⁠— and recently bought another built in 1914 for themselves. The show, now in its fourth season, airs at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays. 

But these days you’ll find them prepping their newest venture, the Cordray Drug Store ice cream shop at the corner of Avenue L and 39th street in Galveston, where the Paganucci Grocery and Market once operated. For now they’re open noon-6 p.m. Friday-Sunday, but in early July they’ll be open noon-6 p.m. six days a week. (Closed Tuesdays.)

“It’s exciting to have a place for folks to stop by. We’re here a lot so we can say hello; people can hang out and cool off, get some ice cream,” said Michael, 40 and a fourth-generation Galvestonian. “We’re glad people are enjoying Galveston. It’s positive to have people invest in this little corner store.” 

The couple bought the building in 2019, unsure of what they’d do with it. After deciding to keep it and operate a business from it, they contemplated a coffee shop and other ideas, ultimately settling on ice cream.

“Yeah, we’ve got a TV show and two little girls and we just didn’t have enough to do,” Michael, 40, said with a smile as Ashley, 35, greeted customers and worked the frozen table on which they make ice cream. “I don’t know why we didn’t just make it residential and stay in our wheelhouse, but this was exciting and Ashley was looking forward to having ice cream at her disposal whenever she wants. She’s my best customer. She will be when she pays her tab, anyway.”

Once they decided on an ice cream shop, they knew they wanted a twist on it. After all, anyone can put a scoop on a cone and send a customer on their way. Soft-serve machines run $15,000 each, so that seemed like more of an investment than they were up for.

Michael calls rolled ice cream the “Benihana of ice cream,” taking a little more time but just about as fresh as it gets.

The couple ordered an ice cream machine ⁠— literally a stainless steel round plate with a freezer-like component beneath it ⁠— and tinkered with a recipe for the ice cream base. That base is mixed with flavors, fruit or mix-ins that range from Fruity Pebbles to Kit Kat bars to chocolate chip cookies.

Last Friday, Ashley poured some of the ice cream base on the cold plate, then dropped strawberries and half a banana on it, taking two putty knives and chopping the fruit into bits before spreading and scraping the final mixture over and over until it had frozen into ice cream. Then she used one of the scrapers to roll the frozen mixtures into tube-like shapes before placing them in a cup and topping with whipped cream and a cherry.

Throughout the afternoon, neighbors who’d been watching the building’s transformation drifted in and out, buying ice cream, sometimes sitting down to enjoy it and sometimes heading out to the scorching heat.

Season 2, episode 8 ⁠— “Soda Pop Shop” ⁠— featured this project, so many of the show’s fans got a glimpse of what was to come.  And every time that episode airs again, they get more calls and visit to the ice cream shop.

What is now the Cordray Drug Store ⁠— it’s not a drug store, simply an ice cream shop ⁠— began its life in 1922 as a neighborhood market. The Paganucci family operated the store on the first floor and lived on the second floor. It’s not known exactly when the shop closed, but Michael believes it was the late 1970s or early ’80s.

Most recently it had divided into apartments.

Ashley, 35, grew up in Spring, but went to Texas A&M in Galveston. The couple met when they both worked for Kirby Marine, and it was Ashley who was first determined to buy a historic home. They launched their first project while they were dating, and eventually it was Ashley who encouraged Michael to quit his job so they could flip homes full time.

They do most of the work on the homes they restore, hiring professionals for anything that requires a license, such as plumbing or electrical work.

Michael posted plenty of pictures on social media — their Save 1900 Instagram account has more than 48,000 followers — sometimes images from their own projects but often just photos of older Galveston homes that they love. Soon, HGTV came calling, looking for a a location for a reality TV show in a beach community with homes costing less than $500,000.

Their show launched in 2019 as “Big Texas Fix” and later was renamed “Restoring Galveston.” The Magnolia Network, operated by Warner Bros. Discovery and Chip and Joanna Gaines, is a relaunch of the DIY Network, which itself was a spinoff of HGTV.

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