The sounds of early 20th century jazz and bebop music spilled from the open garage door front of the Marshmallow Monkey.
Passers-by stopped to nose over colorful upholstered chairs, funky vintage decorations and carefully arranged table sets. Inside, displays featured repurposed wooden doors and glass windows turned into striking decorative pieces. Pieces painted in muted greens and faded blues played off the stark black walls and exposed brick.
White chandeliers hanging from the ceilings provided a low glow to complement the natural light coming from the windows.
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Owners Nicole and Brandon Nicoloff have implemented a French open market feel to the new location of their vintage store. Focused on shabby chic furniture, unique decor, floral design and other home goods, the Marshmallow Monkey exudes European flair on Franklin’s downtown square.
“Franklin is becoming a destination town for people, with the events we have and the businesses we have. People have identified the town as a place for unique vintage finds as well,” Nicole Nicoloff said. “We’re picking up new foot traffic that we never had before, so we’re getting a new audience that never knew we were there.”
Nicole Nicoloff’s grandfather immigrated from Germany and started a thriving flower and greenhouse business along Bluff Road. Floral design was passed down to her mother and finally to her.
Combined with their love of unearthing vintage pieces that work in modern decorating, she and Brandon Nicoloff melded their hobbies into a business.
Their former site on East Jefferson Street was becoming too small for the items they wanted to sell, Nicole Nicoloff said. With only 1,100 square feet of space, they couldn’t feature the larger furniture that customers had been requesting.
“We had so much product coming in that we had no space,” she said. “You have to stay open while you’re growing your business, but we had reached maximum capacity for that space.”
Utilizing the potential
Their fresh floral line also had grown immensely during the past three years. In 2014, they were hired to do flowers for three weddings and have 12 lined up this year. The old shop didn’t allow much space for displaying the floral arrangements available, Brandon Nicoloff said. They needed something larger.The Nicoloffs were approached by the owner of the building on West Monroe Street, who had heard that they were interested in moving into a larger shop. With its high ceilings, wide-open floor plan and weathered brick, the historic structure was ideal for what the Marshmallow Monkey could be.“It needed a lot of work, but we could see the potential,” Brandon Nicoloff said.
They also loved the location of the building. Situated on the courthouse square, in what has become a resurgent retail and dining market, the Marshmallow Monkey would be in the center of Franklin’s historic downtown.
The move would allow them to open in a more central location for the shop, while adding another distinctive business for the downtown community.
“It enables us to spread our wings a little bit about what we want to do, create more displays and carry a larger array of pieces, even hosting events,” Brandon Nicoloff said.
Renovating the space took less than 60 days, Nicole Nicoloff said. They were unable to get into the building until after the first of July, when the transformation started.
Industrial carpet covered 12-inch-by-12-inch tile, and both needed to be removed to uncover the original wooden floors. Walls were covered with colored gear murals, from a previous tenant. The exposed brick had been plastered over.
“There was a lot of sweat equity in this building. Our customers didn’t want us closed, so we had to quick-turn it,” she said.
The new building offers room for Nicole Nicoloff to consult with floral customers, design in the open and show off their abilities.They are also able to do larger statement pieces that could never be done at the old store. Items such as a hutch from the 1850s and an 8-foot-tall display case never would have been featured in their old store, Brandon Nicoloff said.The building at one time had been a general store. The Nicoloffs wanted their new shop to have an open-market feel — a vision realized with the front panel garage doors that can slide to open in nice weather.
“We wanted to have a seamless extension out into the town square, much like what you’d find abroad,” Nicole Nicoloff said.
The new Marshmallow Monkey officially opened on Aug. 21, and the response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive, the owners said.
“We had a tremendous opening and a tremendous following by our customers,” Brandon Nicoloff said. “If you look at a lot of our furniture, so much of it has already been sold, so our store is starting to thin out.”
The Nicoloffs have tried to fit into the niche already created on the courthouse square. They partnered with Greek’s Pizzeria and Tapp Room for a grand-opening party. Suzy’s Teahouse and Bakery will help cater baked goods for their holiday open house in December.
On nights when the Artcraft Theatre shows films or hosts concerts, they have kept the store open later to cater to increased walking traffic.
“It’s all about us working with the other businesses downtown. If one of the other places is running a special or has an event, we want to be open to give (customers) an additional place to go,” Brandon Nicoloff said.
What: The Marshmallow Monkey, a home decor, floral and vintage shop specializing in unique large statement furniture and decorations
Where: 41 W. Monroe St., Franklin
Owners: Nicole and Brandon Nicoloff
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday