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Edward Robert Stolman, Downtown Franklin Urban Pioneer dies at 86

One of three men who were instrumental in laying the groundwork for the way downtown Franklin appears today passed away at his home in Glen Ellen, Calif. at the age of 86.

Edward ‘Ed’ Stolman died Dec. 23, 2012. Visionaries Clavin LeHew, former owner of The Factory at Franklin and John Noel, former owner of several Main Street properties, and Stolman, established the Downtown Franklin Urban Pioneers to Save Main Street. 

“It was a time in our history when the K-Marts, Wal-Marts and Sears went to the interstate,” said LeHew. “Little towns across the Nation dried up. The downtowns tried to compete to no avail. When I was in Europe in the Air National Guard I fell in love with the Main streets. When I moved back to Franklin, as president of the Chamber of Commerce, I tried to get the Chamber of Commerce interested in downtown and the time was not right. I then developed Carter’s Court with little shops and winding sidewalks.

He continued, “I later moved to California and while sitting in a hot tub, I got a call from John Noel who said ‘Calvin, what you wanted to do in downtown Franklin, you can do—there are 27 buildings for sale—Ed Stolman and I are buying some of these buildings and we want you to join us.’”

LeHew returned to Franklin and purchased seven buildings for the sum of $350,000. “We began to restore the buildings and advocate for Streetscape along Main Street. Everyone was very skeptical of what we were envisioning for downtown Franklin,” he said. “Ed was a visionary and was not afraid to take changes. I admired what he was willing to do and we became close friends.”

Of Stolman, Noel said, “Ed and I became partners on several of the buildings on Franklin’s Main Street and I had on the job training with Eddie’s vision. Eddie encouraged me to help found the Downtown Franklin Association. I served as the first chairman and our team of three provided a large part of the funding to begin the DFA organization. Eddie being the thinker that he was, stayed in the background but he served as the leader of the leaders. Eddie was a man ahead of his time—gifted with the ability to see way down the road into the future. In doing so he helped the entire community and the value of the community. I am so happy that I had the opportunity to visit both by phone and in person since he moved to California.”

Heritage Foundation Executive Director Mary Pearce recalls her memories of Stolman during her early days at the organization. “I remember that I had just started working at the Heritage Foundation and Ed let the Heritage Foundation build and help fund a model of the proposed Main Street Streetscape project along the north side of Fourth Avenue North to show people what it could look like as we were being told it would destroy downtown. It is still there today and the vision he had for Main Street back in the 1980’s is happening.”

Stolman was born Feb. 15, 1926 in Chicago, Ill., son of Abraham and Dorothy (Koppel) Stolman. He was preceded in death by three wives: Luas Olshine, Joan Greene Sherman, and Carolyn Scherman and is survived by many family members.

A graduate of Northwestern University (1946) he distinguished himself as an astute businessman, an energetic philanthropist and as an individual with a passion for living and learning.

His initiation into the world of business was at his wife’s family-owned retail clothing chain, Banks Olshine Stolman, with locations in major southern cities but his entrepreneurial spirit was unleashed with his concepts of upscale bowling and swimming, including Strike ‘n’ Spare Bowling Lanes and Swim’n Sun Olympic Pool in West Nashville in 1959.

At the inception of Hospital Affiliates, Inc., a Nashville-based hospital management company founded in 1968, he was named Executive Vice President responsible for management and acquisitions. A year later, he was named Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, when the company went public in 1969 and remained for 10 years.

He was named Review Appeal Man of the Year for 1984 and spearheaded the re-development of Lower Broadway in Nashville and was awarded the Advantage Magazine Man of the Year in 1990.

Among many other accomplishments, he used his keen marketing acumen to build a diverse portfolio of enterprises including the national launch of the DoveBar culminating in its sale to M&M/Mars, Inc. to the creation of Merchants restaurant, built in a historic landmark in Downtown, Nashville and The Olive Press, makers and purveyors of Extra-virgin olive oil in Sonoma County. 

He served as a member of the Board of Directors of The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF, The Green Music Center at SSU, the Jewish Museum of San Francisco, the California Olive Oil Council, and was Chairman of the Greater Metro Arts Commission and the Greater Nashville Arts Committee. In addition, he has zealously and energetically supported numerous cultural arts and social service programs in every community where he has resided.

In 2008, Ed was quoted as saying: “I am 82.  I feel like 60, and I probably act like I am 40. If I can have 10 more years of healthy living, I have accomplished my mission.” A few years short of his chronological goal, he led an exemplary life of mentorship, service and kindness to others, infusing each day and act with his infectious joie de vivre.

A private memorial celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

Donations in the name of Edward R. Stolman may be made to The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute or to the Green Music Center, both at Sonoma State University.


Posted on: 1/3/2013


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