Joe Haran thought he was going to an important business dinner. The owner of the company he works for called saying he needed him there to help woo a big client. Bring along your wife, Jodi, and wear something nice, the boss told him.
But when Haran strolled into the Red Mesa Cantina in downtown St. Petersburg last week and saw his coworkers dressed in T-shirts and flip-flops, he knew something wasn't right.
Seconds later, Haran was surrounded by a camera crew and an HGTV host with a microphone. He'd won the cable network's Urban Oasis sweepstakes prize package valued at more than $1 million, and his bosses had been contacted by HGTV to set up the ambush.
“When I saw the cameras I tried to get out of the way because I thought it was for someone else,” Haran said. “When you see the video, I'm completely in shock, but I was freaking out on the inside.”
Haran won a fully furnished, 1,000-square-foot condo on the 24th floor of the posh Residences at W hotel in Boston. Through its floor-to-ceiling windows, the condo offers a sweeping view of Charles River and Boston Common. His prize also included a new Acura MDX.
Haran, 41, an environmental scientist for a small firm in St. Petersburg, said he originally went on the HGTV website three years ago looking for ideas to fix up the 1920s bungalow he'd purchased in St. Petersburg. While he was there, a sweepstakes caught his eye, and for the past three years he entered all the HGTV sweepstakes he could.
“I said 'somebody's gonna win, why couldn't it be me.' I just kept entering,” he said.
Haran's name was chosen from more than 21 million entries, an HGTV spokesperson said.
Haran won't see the condo until HGTV flies him to Boston this weekend, but there's one feature he's already looking forward to.
“The shower unit has like 10 jets, and an iPod stereo system you can program to control the jets and the water temperature,” he said. “They put in a giant glass window as one of the walls, so you can rock out and look out at the city while you're showering.”
As nice as the condo is, Haran, who's originally from the Boston area, said it won't be enough to lure him away from sunny Florida just yet.
“We love St. Pete and we've been here over 11 years now,” he said. “Ideally I'd love to rent it out for a while and have it when I retire someday in the distant future.”
The Urban Oasis special featuring Haran is set to air on HGTV on Dec. 27.