On the eve of their tenth anniversary celebrations, Jake, the bartender attending the second-floor bar that afternoon, was celebrating his birthday, as longtime general manager Gino snuck up the stairs to surprise him with a cake. A little while later, a waitress just getting off her shift came over to give Joni Cole, owner and founder of Gray’s on Main, the warmest of hugs before departing for the day. Meanwhile, final preparations on the main stage were in motion as everyone readied for what was yet to be another entertaining night of live music at the downtown Franklin staple that we have all come to know and love over the past decade.
The first Friday in August, Gray’s on Main, a favorite local restaurant located in the heart of downtown Franklin, celebrated ten remarkable years of being in business. Several distinguished guests were present for lunch at the historic pharmacy-turned-restaurant, like Ken Moore (the Mayor of Franklin), several city aldermen, and Rick Warwick (Williamson County Historian) who was in attendance for a book signing. The celebrations and festivities planned for the weekend were just getting started.
Join the Heritage Foundation as we proudly recognize Gray’s on Main for their ten successful years of providing our local community with fresh food, innovative drinks, and a refuge for the soul to convene with loved ones.
The idea of Gray’s came to fruition when a caring, widowed critical care nurse, Joni, met a charming architect and retired Disney artist, Michael, in northern Alabama. Joni’s background comes from a passion devoted to serving others in the medical field, while Michael has always had an eye for design and the arts, paired with a desire to craft the perfect drink. When this blend of servanthood, architectural design, and local flavor brought the couple back to where Joni was raised, Franklin, Tennessee, the couple pounced on the opportunity to purchase the historic Gray’s pharmacy building when it became available in 2012.
“When these bricks were laid in 1876, Brandy was the go-to spirit. Fitting into the pre-prohibition type of concept, we wanted to give a nod to our history here in Franklin,” said Cole.
Before opening Gray’s on Main’s doors in August of 2013, Michael and several teams renovated the building back to its original glory as a local drug store in eighteen months. While Michael handled the building’s renovations, Joni volunteered wherever she could in the Franklin restaurant scene, learning the ins and outs of the business.
Gray’s on Main was intricately designed with history in mind. Not only does the building itself portray memories of the past, but everything from the decor to the food to the cocktails looks through the lens of its storied history.
Rooted deep in her beliefs, community is what Joni Cole points to as her most rewarding experience over the past decade. When you walk through the doors of Gray’s, from the friendly faces that greet you to the wait staff who serve you and everyone in between, Joni believes in the heart of community and service.
“We have a lot of regulars that know our bartenders by name and that we have developed long-lasting relationships with,” said Joni.
Over the previous decade, Gray’s on Main has branched out into the Franklin community, partnering and supporting local nonprofits and organizations like Habitat for Humanity, A Vintage Affair, among many others.
A lot has happened in the ten years since Gray’s on Main opened its historic doors to the people of Franklin. The local favorite has hosted many private events in its historic space. They opened their sister bar, “O Be Joyful” right next door. And they have seen many friends come and go through their broad, brown doors overlooking Franklin’s historic Main Street.
“Michael and I didn’t want to start any restaurant just anywhere,” Cole says. “We wanted this building on Main Street and with this community because it’s all about your community and the people you surround yourself with.”
(Photo credits 📸: Ysabella Jones / Pneuma Photo Studio)