How to Have Your Best Day Ever at The New and Improved Factory at Franklin

Over the course of 95 years, The Factory at Franklin has seen its town through thick and thin. Originally constructed as the Dortch Stove Works in 1929, it survived the Great Depression and World War II, making Magic Chef stoves until the 1950s and then mattresses until 1991. The Factory then sat vacant until 1996, when the idea of imploding it for a movie production prompted local visionaries and preservationists Marilyn and Calvin LeHew to renovate it into a landmark retail, arts and entertainment destination.

But when Holladay Properties acquired the campus three years ago, they brought even bigger dreams of what The Factory could be — plans that are now coming to life before our eyes.

Inside and out, a thoughtful restoration of original spaces has been complemented with new activations. Under the iconic water tower, for instance, a new park plaza has been added, and on the back side, an historic working carousel will be installed this year. Just inside the main doors, celebrated eateries such as Edley’s Bar-B-CueEtchFive Daughters BakeryJeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and Mojo’s Tacos flank The Skylight bar in the Grand Hall. The spectacular clerestory-inspired centerpiece in the light-filled space has become known for craft cocktails and friendly bartenders; you can also order food to your seat from the host of restaurants or take a drink to go as you stroll and shop the artisans, boutiques and themed retailers throughout the 300,000 square feet under-roof. 

Aside from the array of food options — think Daddy’s DogsFranklin Juice Co.Greys Fine CheesesHattie B’s Hot ChickenHonest Coffee RoastersWhite Alligator and others coming online through the summer — the curated selection of retailers offers hours of distinctive shops and booths to peruse. From fresh flowers to old records, vintage clothing to fine art, local gifts to handicrafts, home furnishings and jewelry, even a working blacksmith, it’s an inspiring collection designed to create and sustain community. 

That extends to the experiential elements being implemented. Last fall, Studio Tenn’s 329-seat Turner Theater opened, where the non-profit, professional theater company presents world-class stage productions. The spring season will cap with Cabaret through the month of May, and upcoming runs include hits such as Little Shop of HorrorsCrimes of the Heart and Jersey Boys. More frequently, live music can be found at the Skylight and at the Mockingbird Theater & Bar. In Liberty Hall, events throughout the year range from the Franklin Makers Market to a 40-vendor vintage clothing show, a ukulele festival and a host of other interesting themed happenings. The expansive Franklin Farmers Market happens every Saturday morning from 9 to noon under the big pavilion behind The Factory, and a new Wednesday farmers market has been added from 4 to 8 p.m. at the new Water Tower Plaza. On the first Friday night of each month, local artists are featured as part of Franklin’s Art Crawl.

With new sidewalks recently opened from the historic core and the 200-acre Park at Harlinsdale Farm just across the street, The Factory has become an extension of Main Street and another jewel in the crown of a small town that just keeps getting cooler. If you’re looking for a place to spend a perfect day, count on spending a good bit of it under the water tower at the old stove factory on Franklin Road.