When the sun sets in Franklin tonight, a group of local stores hope to light a pathway to increased business.
Ten shops and eateries, all located east of the railroad tracks on Jefferson Street, are hosting a special after-hours shopping experience from 5 to 7 p.m. today. Following sidewalks lit with luminarias, people can explore vintage decor, find trendy clothing and apparel and grab a bite to eat.
Special discounts and other enticing deals are planned as well, to create a festive holiday experience for people as they support local businesses.
“Down where we are, we’re always a part of everything that downtown does. But there is the distance. There’s a little bit of separation. We’re not trying to overshadow anything, but we want to add a little bit to go along with it,” said Shannon Swails, owner of Blackbird Nest.
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Downtown Franklin businesses have regularly expanded their regular hours on the first Friday of the month this year, mostly during the summer and fall. Many stores, such as Toodleydoo Toys and Vintage Whimsy, will have expanded hours, in advance of this weekend’s holiday lighting ceremony.
The idea to host a luminaria night builds off of that. The idea came from Swails and Salvage Sisters founder Julie Stewart.
“The first Friday of the month, we all collectively participate in staying open later. Individually, we try to come up with some ideas of things that we can do to get people involved,” Swails said. “At our end of town, the types of businesses we are, we have trouble doing interactive activities. So what we decided to do was light up the street.”
Part of the idea was in response to the ongoing construction in downtown Franklin. Though the businesses east of the railroad tracks are only a few blocks from the main downtown square, the road work created a perceived — and sometimes literal — barrier.
“The shops that are on the east side of the tracks, we’ve tried to come up with ways so that people don’t forget about us down here. Even though the road is open now, we’ve tried to market together when we could,” said Danny Causey, director of Madison Street Salvage.
The two-block section of Jefferson Street is known for its vintage focus, with shops such as Thanks for the Thyme, Salvage Sisters and Madison Street Salvage offering older furniture, home accents and other items that can be upcycled in unique ways.
But the luminaria night also will allow the area to showcase a broad range of businesses. Gigi’s Sugar Shack Cafe features hearty dishes such as chicken noodles and ham and beans, while Boujie Biscuit puts flourish on homecooked biscuits.
Hoosier Cupboard Candy and Ice Cream recreates the nostalgic feel of an old-school candy shop, while JP Parker Flowers creates beautiful floral designs and other gifts.
New shops, such as Farm Girl Mercantile and Eclectic Jade Vintage, will provide shoppers with an opportunity to discover their unique wares.
All will have luminarias lighting the way, making for an eye-catching spectacle.
“Now that the road is open and folks are driving by, it will definitely make us stand out,” Causey said.
The plan is for the “east of the tracks” businesses to continue marketing as a group. They will continue the First Friday After Hours concept throughout the winter with different events and enticements for shoppers. For example, Swails plans to offer essential paint classes featuring Annie Sloan chalk paint.
Organizers also plan to do different promotions throughout the year and even come up with a catchy moniker for the area that still is downtown but also its own little shopping community, Causey said.