By Skip Anderson, For the Williamson Herald
Carrie Drury, proprietor of Friedman's of Franklin, and customer Franklin HIgh School senior Sydney Eiland talk about a purchase at Drury's newly opened store on West Main Street in Franklin.
Carrie Drury works beneath the watchful, plastic eyes of an elk's head. It's a small elk's head, she said, but an elk's head nonetheless.
“This is my muse,” Drury said, gesturing to the taxidermied specimen named Ernie directly above her head.
Despite her insistence that he is small, Ernie sure takes up a lot of space. Drury ducks as she moves back and forth behind the cash register. “I bought him three years ago; it was what my store was going to be built around.”
When Ernie was the only concrete manifestation toward the dream of owning a retail shop, Drury owned and operated the One Stop Cafe on Franklin's Columbia Avenue. It was there that she got to know a lot – A LOT – of people. She's now co-owner of Friedman's of Franklin at 1346 West Main, which opened earlier this month. And some of her former customers at the cafe are among her first customers at Friedman's.
“I remember you,” she said to a middle-aged man across the room thumbing through a rack of flannel shirts. “You used to hunt rabbits.”
“Still do,” he answered.
She informs him, as she does every customer, that she opened the store only last week, and that she hasn't finished stocking the store. She sounds somewhat apologetic.
“Well, I'll be getting a lot more hunting apparel in here soon,” Drury said. “Boots, too.”
After milling about the three-room store for 10 minutes or so, he settles upon his purchase: a camouflaged flashlight.
“I should sell batteries here, too!” she said after he left. But there's no time for her to jot a reminder; there are other customers for her to notify that she'll soon have more merchandise. Everybody seems to understand. More importantly, everybody seems to buy something.
Drury also owns the Franklin Canoe and Kayak Company, which, until last week she ran out of her home. Now it's a component of Friedman's.
“I always wanted a retail space to rent canoes and kayaks for people to enjoy on the Harpeth River,” she told the Williamson Herald. “But I never had it until now. We're going to sell them, too.”
Her business partner is Frank Friedman, son of the founder of Friedman's Surplus and Outdoors in Nashville. Until now a lone entity located a few blocks south of Vanderbilt University, Friedman's has long focused upon military surplus and outdoor goods. The new Friedman's will feature much of the same, but with an emphasis placed upon Airsoft, a growing pastime whose enthusiasts don military-looking protective gear from toe to temple and shoot pea-sized projectiles at each other using sophisticated – and expensive – guns. In that regard, it's the thinking-man's paintball; far less messy with the same effect.
Like the Hillsboro Village store, Friedman's of Franklin features work clothes, military garb, and clothes designed to help its wearer comfortably endure the elements for extended periods of time. It also offers general utility clothing accessories. A man in his mid-60s brings a military-looking khaki canvas belt with a brass buckle to the checkout counter.
“We're going to have some more stuff coming in soon,” Drury tells him. “We're going to have overalls, coveralls, and boots. Were you in the service?”
The store is bustling. As he makes his purchase, a somewhat younger man with shoulder-length hair and a decidedly impressive goatee carries an armful of clothes. Another is holding his chin as he studies a display of Carhartt work pants that nearly spans an entire wall.
Before Friedman's, the space at 1346 West Main Street just south of the Williamson County Administrative Complex housed a clothing consignment store. But it's best known for being home to Toby's County Kitchen, something she and a customer reminisce about.
“The grease trap once caught fire,” he says, gesturing to the room behind the cash register, the room where the elk's body would be if it were still attached to its head. “And the community table was right over there.”
A 1983 graduate of Page High School, Drury exudes a friendliness that generally serves those in retail well; unforced, unhurried, genuine, and helpful. She paces her store in a non-lurking way that few without these qualities can emulate.
“Have you seen our military surplus room?”
Soon there are three men in the smallest of the rooms that comprise the military surplus room, surrounded by government-issued duffle bags, green clothes, and empty ammo containers.
Few customers take note of the point-of-purchase items flanking the cash register, which either speaks to their crippling lack of observation, their Herculean ability to restrain their curiosity, or, most likely, a familiarity with these curios regardless of how jarring their presence would be in virtually any setting other than a military surplus store. There is a basket full of life-sized hand grenades that are so alarmingly realistic that Drury volunteers that they are void of explosives before the obvious question can be asked. There are pocket knives that look like they mean business, small tins of five-color cammo paint, adult emergency ponchos that strongly resemble non-emergency ponchos used in football stadiums on rainy days, and “survival bracelets” woven from several feet of parachute cord, a durable, nylon material. As the name implies, the bracelets could be unraveled and used for any number of purposes should an emergency arise.
“The kids love the para-cord bracelets,” Drury said. “Some buy the ones already made, but many of them buy the cord by the spool and make their own. It's a lot of fun.”
Next to the pre-fab para-cord survival bracelets are personal canisters of pressurized, military-grade tear gas – “a 3-in-1 formula with UV marking dye” – with decorative covers of pink and purple that could help a would-be victim fend off an attacker with aplomb and style. Not far from the register is a display of cylindrical devices designed to help hunters caterwaul in a variety of animal languages, including duck, “coon,” coyote, doe, and buck. The packaging of the latter suggests the user inhale through the device rather than blow to mimic, “sexy hot doe bleats.”
“Those are made right here in Franklin,” she said. “I'm happy to help support local manufacturers when I can.”
Friedman's restrooms also double as dressing rooms, although they are not comparable in size to one another.
“I suggest you use the women's room,” she said to our man with the decidedly impressive goatee and the armful of clothes. He's burly, but not above using the women's room if invited to do so with good cause. Five minutes later, he purchases everything he tried on – about $80, which seems like a bargain for the amount of clothing he left with.
“So far, business is good,” Drury said as another customer walked in the front door.
Friedman's is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Posted on: 11/21/2012