Trendy venues and local history make for a unique night on the town.
With a location right on the outskirts of the Music City, it’s no surprise that Franklin has a vibrant nightlife. But what makes Franklin unique is the undeniably old-fashioned feel that perfectly balances its modern entertainment scene.
From the time it opened in 1937, the Franklin Theatre became a cherished gathering place. But, even the community’s love for the Theatre couldn’t override climbing rent prices. In 2007, the Theatre was forced to close its doors.
“There was a lot of hand-wringing at that point,” Executive Director Dan Hays said. No one wanted to see it destroyed, but it seemed no one knew how to save it, either.
With the help of generous donors and efforts from the community, the Theatre reopened in June of 2011, but it wasn’t the same old movie house.
It now has carefully engineered sound systems and room acoustics for live entertainment, as well as 1930s-style decor. Nowadays, the Franklin Theatre is a place for an experience like no other.
“Our hope is that every audience member is touched by a piece of art,” Hays said, “A song. A play. Over time, we hope that the connection that people feel through art will lead us to embrace each other as community.”
Speaking of community, Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant—just around the corner from the Theatre— is a longtime staple in bringing people together.
“As restaurateurs, we all try to provide good service and good food in a good atmosphere,” says Puckett’s owner, Andy Marshall. “It all comes down to the emotional connection people make.”
Marshall bought a small grocery store called Puckett’s in Leiper’s Fork in 1998, and since then he’s built connections that keep people coming back. When he opened the Franklin location in 2004, he made sure that music was a part of the restaurant from day one.
“We pride ourselves on staying true to how we started–with local songwriters,” said Marcus Whybrew, the Music Program Director for Puckett’s.
As Marshall said, “Add music to barbecue, and you have the foundation of our Puckett’s history!” As far as our taste buds and ears can tell, that’ll be a successful formula for years to come.
As you mosey back toward Main Street, it’s hard to miss the neon sign hanging on a 140-year-old building across the way. The sign belongs to Grays’s on Main—a place that will truly take you back in time from the moment you enter.
Like others in downtown Franklin, Gray’s on Main embodies good old-fashioned hospitality. “For us, hospitality is having the eye for detail and a spirit of excellence,” says Joni Cole, who co-owns Gray’s on Main with her husband, Michael Cole.
When the couple found the space in 2012, it was full of old prescriptions and countless items from its days as a pharmacy. They honored the building’s history wherever they could as they renovated it into a multilevel restaurant, complete with a stage for performers.
On that stage, you’ll find all kinds of talent. “Blues, R&B, soul, Americana, indie, folk—we have all of it,” says Joni Cole, “We always love to shine a light on talented local artists.”
Without a doubt, you’ll leave Gray’s feeling like you’ve just been in a time capsule, with a smile on your face and a thoroughly satisfied appetite!
Take a stroll toward the busy Main Street roundabout, and walk a few more blocks to reach Kimbro’s Cafe—one of Franklin’s “best kept secrets” for some legendary artists, according to owner Will Jordan.
Kimbro’s – aka Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor – is situated on Margin Street, and it’s a “Mississippi juke joint with a New-Orleans-meets-Austin, Texas vibe,” says Jordan. But Kimbro’s is so much more than a “dive bar”—it’s a unique experience for all generations.
Over the years, Kimbro’s has hosted swarms of singer-songwriters—from now-well-known names in country, to local singer-songwriters, and everyone in between. Like Gray’s, Kimbro’s is a time capsule—but the history has been created by customers and audience members since the place opened in 2005. Flyers cover the walls, and new pieces are added nearly every day.
“We don’t ever get rid of anything,” says Jordan. There’ve been rumors of ghosts, but Jordan is sure of one thing: “The real ghosts here are the people who cover the walls.”
With a short walk back toward Main Street, you’ll find a coastal experience—in the heart of Middle Tennessee. Puckett’s Boat House sits on the edge of the busiest stretch in downtown Franklin.
Owner of Puckett’s Grocery, Andy Marshall, opened Puckett’s Boat House in 2012. The building was previously home to Friedman’s Boat Locker, so it seemed fitting to create a seafood restaurant inside. Signage and memorabilia from the building’s days as a boat locker still adorn the walls as a reminder of the past, alongside photos of past live performances.
The Boat House is proud to host local songwriters regularly, just like its sister restaurant, Puckett’s Grocery. The menu may be different, but the commitment to excellent food and a welcoming environment is the same.
Wherever you go in downtown Franklin, you’ll find the perfect combination of honoring the past and connecting to the gift of the moment.