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Community Profile: Franklin–Simpson



Story by Kayla Fugate

As I arrive at my first stop in Franklin, Jenna and Jessica Curtis are planning Jessica’s wedding, tucked away behind laptops and sipping lattes at one of the many assorted tables in 4 Soils in downtown Franklin. The aroma of fresh baked cupcakes and brewed coffee linger, and the two sisters are cozy in the rustic coffee shop. The sisters were raised in Franklin; Jessica lives in Virginia but has spent the majority of the summer in her hometown and Jenna just moved back after graduating from Western Kentucky University.

“I am here almost every day,” says Jenna about 4 Soils. “They even made a raspberry syrup for me.” Jenna says that places like 4 Soils are helping make the transition to moving back home easier. “Just having a place to sit and drink coffee and read a book is wonderful,” she says.

Franklin is growing, and business like 4 Soils are indicative of that. While the area is expanding, it’s still as accessible and friendly as ever, especially the downtown. Visitors to Franklin will notice much more hustle and bustle on the square than there was just a few years ago. On any given Saturday, the sidewalks are busy with shoppers, hands full of wares from their favorite boutiques. Visitors will also notice cheerful music playing in the streets and Melvin, a friendly horse made of 400 horseshoes welded together, greeting them to the town.

Franklin is most certainly seeing a revitalization reminiscent of a simpler time when the downtown square was the heartbeat of the town.

“About three years ago there were a lot of empty buildings on the square just sitting there. There was nothing in them, they weren’t rentable, and they weren’t in any shape to be able to rent,” says Amy Ellis, the Executive Director of Franklin-Simpson Renaissance, Inc. Since then, it has changed largely thanks to Franklin-Simpson Renaissance’s efforts. Franklin-

Simpson Renaissance, Inc. is a non-profit organization focused on stimulating downtown economic development, building leadership in the business community, and promoting the downtown area in Franklin-Simpson Renaissance also offers grant money to building owners who want to improve the façade of their buildings downtown. They also have a sign grant. “We can grant up to $10,000 a building to owners,” says Amy.

Amy says her interest is to make downtown vibrant, and her passion for Franklin is apparent. “I could talk about this all day. I get so excited,” she says about the revitalization of Franklin’s square.

Many ideas that have been added to the area have been inspired by other towns in Kentucky. Amy says that she decided to venture to towns around the state to see what they were doing.

The music you hear playing in Franklin’s square was inspired by Greenville, Kentucky. “When we got out of the car there, we immediately heard music. I thought that would be so cool to add to Franklin, so that’s where that idea came from,” says Amy.

Amy says that three years ago, she made it her mission to get people and businesses in buildings downtown. “Any building that was empty, was for sale, or for rent, I put on a tour of downtown. I invited all the realtors in Franklin and some from Bowling Green and any investors that I thought might be interested in buying or renting downtown. I essentially took them on a tour. We took a day and we toured all the empty buildings, and that is what spurred the growth downtown.”

Amy says that immediately, nothing happened, and she was really discouraged. However, an investor bought what is now the 4 Soils building. “They took every brick off the front of the building, cleaned the bricks, and put them back on the building. What they did was true historic preservation, and it was amazing.” Amy says that as a result of the hard work, two beautiful condos and a much-needed coffee shop were added to the square.

It only took one building remodel to start the chain reaction.

“It got contagious. Other owners got excited about fixing their buildings up too. In the past couple of years, a lot of these buildings have seen improvement, and a lot have been bought and sold because people see the value in the growth of our downtown,” says Amy.

That growth has seen other local shops also being added to the area. Whereas a few years ago, if you wanted to buy clothes in Franklin, Wal-Mart was your only option. Now, there are several boutiques around the square to buy clothes and more are being added. Now, shoppers can stop by Mustard Seed Market to find unique or vintage items or stop by The Painted Pearl for homemade dog treats from Abbi’s Barkery or fun artwork by ArtWorks by Carly. Soon, shoppers will be able to buy upscale furniture and home goods at Willow Hill

Marketplace and register for wedding gifts at the Cozy Corner, both shops will be opening this year. After a day of shopping, visitors can treat themselves with frozen yogurt at the Frozen Spoon or a handful of donuts from Best Donuts down the street. If fine dining is on the agenda, Franklin has that too at Brickyard Café. Though Franklin may seem small, the town now has the perks of a larger city.

Art has also played a big role in Franklin’s rebirth. In addition to Melvin, the square’s welcoming horse, a few miles away at the fork of Uhls Road and Bunch Road, you will find a literal fork in the road. The Franklin-Simpson High School wielding students who created Melvin the horse, also created the 21-foot fork that now sits at Uhls Road and Bunch Road.

When driving into Franklin from 31-W, visitors are also welcomed with a colorful mural on the back of the Masonic Building, and another mural may soon be added. Franklin is also celebrating the recent success of its Love in Bloom music festival, a tribute to Johnny Cash and June Carter, who married in Franklin 50 years ago. The two-day concert featured the Charlie Daniels Band and Lee Ann Womack among other famous acts. During the summer, Franklin offers lively Concerts on the Square on Friday nights. The line dancing is unbelievable, and people of all ages show up to boogie down and enjoy the music.

As Franklin continues to grow, Marc Dottore brought a distillery to town. The story behind the name of the distillery, Dueling Grounds, comes from Representative Sam Houston of Tennessee who severely wounded General William A. White in a pistol duel near Franklin, Kentucky, over the patronage political appointment of the Nashville Postmaster. It was thought to be the last duel fought on that spot, but by that time the infamous Kentucky Dueling Grounds had already seen more than 40 duels and earned its place in the history of lore of the Bluegrass state. No longer known as the Home of Duels, Franklin has instead become known as home to Dueling Grounds Distillery and its very first small batch craft offering of Kentucky Clear. Each week on Sundays from 3-7, they host “The Cocktail” where unique artisan cocktails are served. Many other events are hosted their throughout the month, including Second Saturday songwriters nights. For more information visit their website at duelinggroundsdistillery.com.

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