The HGTV stars have been together for 16 years, but they're still big into romance

Ben and Erin Napier have been together for 16 years, but the Home Town stars are still big into romance.

“Every day he’s up before me, and he writes me a letter,” Erin says in the latest issue of PEOPLE. “It’s a short one, but it’s a letter. And since I don’t do coffee, I drink Coke, he’s got one waiting.”

For Ben, going the extra mile for his wife of 11 years and business partner has always felt natural. “Erin is my dream girl,” he says. “Why would I not continue to court her and win her over every day? That’s always my goal.”

The couple, who are also parents to 2-year-old daughter Helen, say the attraction began while attending Jones County Junior College in Mississippi.

He was like a celebrity crush to me,” says Erin, who admits she admired her husband-to-be from afar. “He was the president of every club and very popular but not exclusive. I would see someone eating alone in the cafeteria, and there was Ben, pulling up a chair beside them.”

ben and erin napier
Ben and Erin Napier
| Credit: Brooke Davis
napier wedding
Credit: Patrick Little

The secret attraction was mutual. “I remember seeing Erin the first week of school,” says Ben. “She was walking across the student union, and she had a pixie haircut. I didn’t know what a pixie cut was at the time, but I knew I liked it.”

Still, they didn’t hit it off right away. During a chance meeting at McDonald’s, “I was so nervous talking to him I crashed and burned,” says Erin, laughing.

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“We had about three more encounters like that,” she says. It wasn’t until she interviewed Ben for the school yearbook that they both knew they’d found the one. “Six days later we decided we would get married, and that was that.”

Fast forward a few years, the couple now has a toddler, a booming home reno business and a hit TV show. “We never expected this,” Erin admits.

For more from Ben and Erin Napier, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.