Will Jordan has always been comfortable behind a lens. When he was barely a teenager, his dad gave him a Pentax K1000, a simple SLR that now finds more use as a collector’s item. Maybe his natural eye was a gifted one; both his father and his grandfather were amateur but avid photographers.
That love for capturing moments and embalming them has extended its reach into Jordan’s many vocations: from stringing together the right set of words as a journalist and creating a local watering hole on South Margin Street to curating his own gallery next door. The owner of Kimbro’s Café (a Pickin’ Parlor) and Carpe Diem gallery said he’s been able to roll three passions – photography, music and writing – into a career in downtown Franklin, and one that he loves.
“Running Kimbro’s is a 60-hour-plus work week, but I enjoy doing it. Owning it allows me to stay connected to the community, and the freedom to freelance for local publications,” he said. “I also have the opportunity to shoot bands that play at Kimbro’s, and that’s an accessible channel for my photography. But I’ve always wanted a gallery, and when the building opened up next door to the restaurant I realized I needed that outlet for myself.”
That building next to Kimbro’s on South Margin Street is one of the only shotgun-style houses left in downtown Franklin, and Jordan has filled the 600-square-foot space with a hodge-podge of antique finds, art and vintage clothing. There are custom furniture pieces, dusty cameras decades old, buttery leather jackets from the ’70s and records long abandoned by its original owners.
Though he imagined it to be a showcase for his own work, what it has turned into since its July 2012 opening is something bigger; a place for local art, a house for items from “picking” adventures up and down the East Coast and a store for his Vagabond clothing line.
“I sell my art, but I also promote friends and work by people from around here,” he said. “And I’ve always been interested in the whole American picking thing. This has been a place to store things I find on travels.”
Jordan started his career through a string of newspapers – he was aTennessean copy boy at age 15 – where he learned the foundation of writing and photojournalism. Since then, he’s had work published in USA Today, shot every Bonnaroo festival, and traveled the world, from Costa Rica and New Zealand to France, shooting thousands of frames wherever he goes. He said photography has given him certain access to worlds he wouldn’t have been a part of otherwise.
“I try to see places in the raw and the real. I want to learn about the native customs and cultures, and I think that’s my background,” he said. “I shoot everything that fits into an artistic frame, but my foundation is photojournalism. I don’t want to be told the story, I want to find it.”
Jordan decided to buy into Kimbro’s on one such photographing expedition in Hawaii, seven years ago. When he opened Kimbro’s with Rob Kimbro, the pair turned an old tea room into a restaurant and one of the hottest live music venues in Williamson County. They’ve had the likes of John Prine, SteelDrivers and Nancy Griffith belt tunes from their stage.
“For me, owning Kimbro’s made sense. I’ve always enjoyed live music and loved throwing a party, so this goes hand in hand,“ he laughed. “We’ve had the craziest people play here. Come in here Monday through Saturday and you’ll hear anything from rock and pop to blues and folk. It’s always top-notch talent.”
Jordan said that the music joint is currently reworking its menu to take a more focused approached to a “gourmet meat-and-three” concept, with a special late-night menu. As always, the restaurant will continue to sell wine and only local draft beer – something that Jordan said once again points to the heart of his business.
“You’ll see that local resonates around here. We support our entrepreneurs and really the community,” he said. “I grew up on Second Avenue and I live on First. I barely leave a three-block radius. This is home.”
This is part of a series on merchants in Downtown Franklin.