How Dave & Lisa Uhrik are setting the trend to bring skilled manufacturing to our communities
Dave and Lisa Uhrik have not always been entrepreneurs, but in 2014, they chose to leave their jobs in corporate America for what I would call, “a quest to revive skilled craftsmanship and extend the tradition of America’s great companies.” They were looking for a mid-range manufacturing business with an excellent reputation to bring to the Upper Cumberland. Lisa is a Cookeville native, and both sought to bring something magical to the area that they love. After an extremely painstaking examination of 300 companies, the Uhriks landed on Franklin Fixtures.
Franklin Fixtures, a company of nearly fifty years originally out of Cape Cod, creates magic space.
(I will explain what they do, but get ready for some gushing about bookstores, because I cannot help myself.)
Franklin is a full-service source for custom display fixtures. It may sound dull, but this is the party responsible for giving us The Shop Around The Corner. Yes, the company that resides right here in Putnam County designed and built the actual store and its fixtures for the film You’ve Got Mail. Remember Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks and the coziest bookstore ever witnessed? Of course you do.
If you are not the romantic comedy type, perhaps you’ll be impressed with the fact that out of USA Today’s list of the country’s top 100 bookstores, Franklin Fixtures has its thumbprint on 92 of them. (That is astounding, is it not?) So any time you walk into a bookstore and think, “Wow, this is a lovely place,” it’s almost guaranteed to be a Franklin store.
Creators of magic space is how Dave & Lisa Uhrik, the owners of Franklin Fixtures, actually describe their role, and I have to agree after frequenting several of their stores. Plus I think we can all agree that The Shop Around The Corner is undeniably magical. (Coincidentally, The Shop was based on a real independent bookstore in NYC- Books Of Wonder, which did not close after the “impending doom” brought on by big-box bookstores. It survived and has expanded nine times in the last twenty years. Books of Wonder is also, of course, a Franklin Fixtures store.)
Creating magic goes beyond cultivating a happy space. Bookstores promote literacy. They promote community, and provide the perfect gathering spaces for neighbors and friends. Franklin Fixtures promotes the bookstores that promote literacy and community. And perhaps more significantly for us, Franklin promotes the Upper Cumberland itself.
Small Manufacturers like Franklin have a large impact on our local economy. They employ 25 people in a 55,000 square-foot building. 25 may not seem like much, but this small business puts double the amount of real dollars into our community that many large corporations could. In other words, businesses like Franklin are helping our community move toward thriving. This was a goal that was incredibly important to Dave and Lisa, who sought advice from The Biz Foundry when they were in the process of acquiring the company. "I really want to thank Jeff for his unflagging efforts to encourage and support us," recalls Lisa, "And to Ravi for being right - about everything. We're learning a lot."
Franklin also gives our community a product to be incredibly proud of. Their products are so highly regarded; they’re the only ones in the business with significant resale value. In fact, the Uhriks say they are their own toughest competition, usually going up against thirty-year-old Franklin fixtures on the used market.
Dave and Lisa also are very proud to play a role in cultivating and reviving skilled manufacturing crafts – seeing our country return to the art of “making”. We have many renowned manufacturing traditions in America, and Franklin is just one of many that ought to continue. The Uhriks hope to be trendsetters, looking to encourage others to take some of our country’s great 100-year-old businesses forward.
"You wouldn't cut down a 100-year-old tree without thinking about it, and yet we're cutting down 100-year-old businesses without a blink." says Lisa. "We'd love to be examples of a national movement where people help communities grow by continuing a successful, established business. We searched a long time before we found Franklin."
Franklin Fixtures also designs spaces for churches, libraries, college stores, clothing stores, event spaces, and all sorts of others. Read more about Franklin Fixtures here, on the talented Lisa Uhrik’s blog https://www.franklinfixtures.com/blog.