Anyone who has ever strolled down Main Street in downtown Franklin knows that it is a special place straight out of a movie—in fact countless movies, TV shows, and music videos have been filmed there because it is so picturesque. Downtown Franklin’s charm comes not only from its shops and restaurants, but also the warm, hospitable people that make up the community.
If you’ve noticed a few particularly friendly faces downtown giving directions, restaurant suggestions, or some local fun facts, they are part of the Franklin Locals program. Franklin Locals are residents who volunteer their time to help share what makes Franklin such a wonderful place to live and visit. Whether it’s answering questions from visitors, helping them locate the public restrooms and visitors center, or simply greeting pedestrians with a wave and a smile, Franklin Locals are sharing their love of downtown
Franklin with others.
The Franklin Locals program began in 2017 when the advisory board of the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County saw a need for a hospitality program in downtown Franklin. “The mission of Franklin Locals is to help visitors experience Franklin like a local,” says Heidi Hood, Managing Director of the Downtown Franklin Association. “The values of the program are integrity,
authenticity, excellence, and Southern hospitality.”
The program, which relaunched in March after taking a break during the pandemic, currently consists of 30 volunteers who volunteer on the streets of downtown Franklin Thursday through Saturday. They typically work two-hour shifts volunteering between the hours of 11 AM and 5 PM during the spring, summer, and fall seasons.
“They are very incredible people [who] have lived in Franklin for at least a year or more and they know the town very well,” explains Hood. “They have the spirit of the town. The Southern hospitality is something they’re really great at, so they help answer questions and they help make people feel welcome. You can recognize them by their polo shirts [and] their city lanyards. We’ve had people
decide to move to Franklin after experiencing the wonderful hospitality of a Franklin local.”
After living all over the country, Jeannene Ritchie moved to Franklin from California six years ago and signed up to volunteer as a Franklin Local when the program relaunched this past March. “I saw it online. It was just on Facebook and because I’m retired, I thought, ‘Well I love Franklin and that sounds like the perfect thing to do,’ so I just signed up,’” shares Ritchie. Ritchie, who volunteers with the organization once a week, enjoys sharing her passion for Franklin with visitors and says many visitors equate downtown to Mayberry. “When I saw Franklin, I knew I wanted to live in Franklin. It’s quaint. It’s small, but you’ve got the [Franklin] Theatre there, and I think that’s a big draw. It’s just a nice place to come visit. You feel safe,” she explains. “I love being a Franklin Local because I am able to meet people from around the world and welcome them to our beautiful city. I met two gentlemen today who work in the music industry. They shared what downtown looked like years ago and how much it has changed. You never know who you may meet!”
Be sure to stop and chat with a Franklin local next time you’re downtown, as they are currently in their fall season. To learn more about training for the spring season beginning in March, visit DowntownFranklinTN.com/franklinlocals.