Saturday, March 12, 2022

Franklin Downtown Has a Business Growth Spurt

As published in Franklin Local Pages

By J.D. O’Gara

Lisa Piana, Director of the Franklin Downtown Partnership, says she is “thrilled” at what she is calling a “business boon” in the heart of Franklin. In fact, six new businesses call downtown Franklin home, and with a new Ladybug Cultural and Historical Trail, and new alleyway murals, there is a lot to discover in downtown Franklin!

Established to foster greater vitality in the downtown commercial district, the Franklin Downtown Partnership (FDP) has been planning for this moment of tremendous growth in the downtown for the 20 years it has been in existence, says Piana. “Over these many years, the FDP has been diligently putting in the infrastructure, working with town officials, improving the streetscape, meeting with builders, and hosting downtown events,” she writes.

Lily Riviera, Marketing and Communications Specialist for the Town of Franklin, also attributes the growth to a few initiatives the town of Franklin took to make the community welcoming to business. Some of the new businesses, in fact were part of the Pop-Up Shop grant initiative.

“I think it was a good way for people to get integrated into the community,” says Rivera. 

Rivera notes that her predecessor, in fact, created a business guide to help opening businesses in Franklin get to know not only the community, but the various steps they must take to establish their business of preference in the town. 

“Obviously, opening a business, there are a lot of different steps,” says Rivera. “Anne Marie broke down zoning and more, in a simplified way, guiding them through a very layered process. That’s something that’s been a resource.”

Rivera also points out that, following a market study the town did with the MAPC, Franklin conducted Business Listening Sessions during the pandemic, to determine how best to help local business thrive. That helped steer the Pop-Up Shop grant initiative, and now the town is working on a Franklin for All study with the MAPC, to more clearly establish a vision for the downtown center and adjust zoning toward this effort. This work helps in the long run, she says. The public is invited to take part in a forum to be conducted in Town Council chambers at 7 p.m. on March 7th. 

“These are good tools for businesses to use,” says Rivera. “As a business owner, you need to look at unique your business proposal is in the town you’re going to operate in. If you’re a coffee shop in a town with a lot of coffee shops, it’s going to be harder for you.”

The new businesses located in the Franklin downtown area include: 

• Birchwood Bakery and Kitchen, 17 E. Central St., Franklin, offers breads, salads, baked goods, sandwiches, yogurt parfaits and more.

• Briller Boutique, 70 E. Central St., Franklin, will be opening soon and will sell women’s clothing and accessories. 

• Escape Into Fiction, 12 Main St., Franklin, sells a variety of fictional books.

• Greco Design Co., 2A Main St., Franklin, offers unique home decor items and handmade gifts.

• I Have Coins and Collectibles, 15 Main St., Franklin, carries coins, Pokémon cards, comic books, Star Wars and other collectibles, as well as offers free appraisals. 

• Zuzu’s Petals & Cafe, 19 Dean Ave., Franklin, is a full-service florist and offers a variety of gift items.

“We really encourage residents to stroll the downtown and appreciate all it has to offer,” said Lisa Piana, executive director of the FDP. “Small businesses add so much to our community. We encourage residents to support Franklin businesses and shop local whenever possible.”

Escape Into Fiction originally occupied a storefront on the edge of the downtown through the town’s pop-up shop grant initiative last year. “The first time I drove down Main Street and saw the unoccupied storefront at 12 Main Street, I knew that I needed to have it,” April Rock, owner of Escape into Fiction. “We really wanted to be in the downtown so we can be part of the entire community, not just on the outskirts.”

Rock worked with town officials, business owners and the FDP to secure her new space. “The networking with the FDP helped us continue to stir interest and get people excited about establishing a bookstore in downtown Franklin.”

Roberta Trahan, vice president of the FDP and lifelong Franklin resident is delighted to see the growth in downtown Franklin. 

“The FDP Mission has always been to develop and support an attractive and vibrant downtown,” Trahan said. “The addition of these new businesses, coupled with the support of the many businesses that have been downtown for some time, will continue to work towards this goal. We are so excited for this continued growth!”