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Franklin Road Apparel

A Men's Boutique for the Super Cool Guy

Article by Buffie Baril

Photography by Buffie Baril

Originally published in Franklin Lifestyle

To say Franklin Road Apparel is a great men’s boutique in downtown Franklin is an understatement. It is by far the coolest men’s apparel store on the planet! What makes it so? Well, glad you asked.

To start, the merchandise is the highest quality and most unique, designer clothing, shoes, and accessories you can find. We are not simply talking about department store mall apparel. Franklin Road carries top designers such as Russell Wilson’s Good Man Brand and Psycho Bunny, along with denim brands like Naked and Famous and Bldwn. You can even find a beautiful collection of women’s clothing.

The building Franklin Road Apparel is housed in dates back to 1935 and was the location of a Dodge and Ford dealership, and later Franklin’s fire and rescue squad. It has been lovingly restored, while keeping its fascinating history thanks to the efforts of Bill Powell who owns the entire building all the way to Sweet CC’s. Bill says, “It’s interesting that all the materials used to build that building were repurposed from the huge Victorian house that sat on the corner of 5th Avenue and West Main belonging to the Harrison family.”

In addition to the building’s historic significance, the store is located on US Highway 31W, the main artery from the 1700’s to Nashville that runs north and south near Mackinaw City, Michigan all the way to Mobile, Alabama. This state road was built in 1926 and part of the original United States Numbered Highway System. For locals, this stretch of highway is simply referred to as Franklin Road, or just Main Street.

Finally, what takes Franklin Road Apparel to the highest level of cool is the fact that it is owned by champion race car driver, Ken Thwaits, who races in Pirelli’s Trans Am Series as owner of Showtime Motorsports. Ken grew up in Los Angeles, and his love of racing began when he was a teenager. With over three decades of racing success, along with test-driving vehicles for Nissan, and owning a fantastic collection of 25 classic Camaros, Ken was ready for a new challenge. 

So why would he decide to open a retail men’s store? Ken says, “Downtown Franklin was just ripe for a men’s boutique. I would go shopping with my wife and was left standing on the curb waiting for her. Men needed a place to go hang out and shop so Franklin Road Apparel was a logical solution. I have no retail experience, let alone any apparel experience. But I just went for it, went with my gut and just look what we created!”

The store is located at the end of the Five Points intersection of Franklin Road between 5th and 6th Avenue North. Ken loved this location for several reasons. He explains, “The Firehouse just has a masculine aura to it. So the fit was perfect. I’ve kept the radio tower and made a light fixture hanging from the rafters. There are other memorabilia that I acquired from friends who are with the volunteer fire dept. Even signage left over from the training exercises that the firemen conducted all add to the charm of the store.”

The walls are stacked with an incredible jean collection from the best lines of denim available. Ken explains, “My goal was to carry casual clothing that was unique and hard to find. If I carried brands that Nordstrom has, why would someone shop with us? I like to take risks with more outer fringe brands. Hard-to-find quality cool was my goal. I do all of the buying for the store. I look through my eyes like I am 35 years old and dream of what I would like to wear, then I buy it for the store.”

Ken, along with his team including Anne, Earl and his son Bryce love being part of the downtown Franklin community. He says, “I love being successful. Being successful also helps uplift the whole downtown vibe of Franklin. People want to come and see us, then they will also see what else Franklin has to offer." Ken continues, “The “shop local” motto is crucial to our stand-alone boutique since we have no other store locations that help spread the word. In all honesty, it would be very difficult to recreate Franklin Road anywhere else.”

Ken and his wife Shelli enjoy all the local dining here as well. They wish they could freeze downtown to retain its current charm and innocence. We asked Ken how he would describe Franklin in one word. His answer? “Charming!”

Next time you are in downtown Franklin, please stop by Franklin Road Apparel so you too can discover why this is absolutely the best men’s boutique in the world right here in our lovely Franklin.