Carry out and carry on
Two short months ago, merchants and business owners in historic downtown Franklin looked forward to a thriving spring season as one of Middle Tennessee’s favorite destinations. Since then, the response to the COVID-19 virus has stopped the world in its tracks, and even downtown Franklin has not been immune to its threat.
From the first days of awareness that this would be a massive event, the business owners downtown proved that they are resilient and creative. As the public adjusted to new concepts like “social distancing,” our downtown businesses began to adapt.
Restaurants pivoted to curbside pick-up, delivery and carry-out. Retailers increased their online presence. Those who didn’t already have online shopping options began to shore those up. Social media accounts became vital communication portals with customers.
For a bookstore like Landmark Books, at 114 East Main, social distancing is counter to their purpose, since bookstores attract customers as a place to linger and share ideas on the next great read. Owners Joel and Carol Tomlin knew their focus would have to shift, so they started curbside service and even personally delivering books to nursing homes and other customers.
They also are starting an online story-reading series led by Carol, a former teacher, and have increased their interaction with customers on social media by posting questions about favorite genres and video tours of their shop.
For the namesake of Aubree P. Boutique, the transition to online commerce came a little more easily. Aubree Parker regularly models her clothing and jewelry on her store’s Instagram account, and since the COVID-19 shutdown she has shared more videos of her products and increasingly focused on online sales while her location inside The Shop Around the Corner on Third Avenue is temporarily closed.
Tanya Hembree of Onyx & Alabaster, a design studio and home interiors market at 134 2nd Avenue North, has seen an increase in interior design appointments
since the stay-home orders have been issued. And at Triple Crown Bakery, 735 Columbia Ave., their usual delicious menu of sweet treats has been supplemented with savory dinner dishes such as chicken pot pie and macaroni and cheese.
A departure from her typical work day, Hollie Rollins at Savory Spice Shop plans to post short cooking lesson videos to help folks clean out their freezers since more households are cooking at home.
Main Street Director Jill Burgin, with the Downtown Franklin Association, says the merchant response to the effects of the pandemic has been inspiring. “This is an unprecedented situation for everyone, but it had an almost immediate effect on local merchants.”
Burgin says their response has been as varied as the businesses themselves, but there is a common theme: Optimism.
“Right now the uncertainty is the biggest factor,” Burgin says. “People might feel better if the end was in sight. But everyone I’ve spoken with knows the end of this pandemic will come someday, and they’re just doing the best they can to get to that point.”
That includes helping each other. The Boys and Girls Club of Franklin has benefitted from the generosity of Triple Crown Bakery and other local eateries, who even in the midst of this pandemic have donated food to feed local families. And A. Marshall Hospitality, the company behind Puckett’s Grocery and Americana Taphouse, have begun operating a drive-thru neighborhood pantry where residents pay what they can for pantry staples and family meals.
At Twine Graphics on the Public Square, a graphic design and screen print shop, owners and Franklin natives John Bond and Brandon Hagan came up with a way local businesses can raise funds during this COVID-19 experience. They will create a T-shirt with your logo and design a short-term online store where you take orders for the shirts as a way to bring in cash while sales have slowed.
In downtown Franklin, each business owner has chosen a path that works best for them to keep it going in this time of uncertainty, knowing the circumstances could change every day. Some chose to close temporarily, while others have adapted to new platforms, all with the intent of continuing to serve their neighbors as part of the downtown Franklin community.