Franklin Tomorrow hosted its 11th FrankTalks of the year at Columbia State Community College’s Williamson Campus Monday morning, with a focus on the upcoming holidays.
Special guests who made up the panel discussed retail, safety and charitable needs that exist in Williamson County. Panelists were Deborah Faulkner, chief of the Franklin Police Department; Richard Wright, general manager of CoolsSprings Galleria; Heidi Hood, managing director of the Downtown Franklin Association; and Valencia Breckenridge, CEO of GraceWorks Ministries.
Faulkner reminded the audience of personal safety during the holidays and the “Not in Our Mall” initiative. The department has added undercover police officers within CoolSprings Galleria to prevent shoplifting. It has also added officers to patrol parking lots surrounding the facility.
“We just want people to know that we have the area pretty much saturated,” Faulkner said. “It’s important that people feel safe when they’re going to see Santa Claus or going out to dinner or taking their children out there to walk around.”
She noted that Franklin police officers have made over 380 DUI arrests this year, and the holidays are usually when arrest frequency increases.
“Don’t let your friends get into a car while drunk; call us,” she said.
Wright presented recent statistics about the mall. CoolSprings Galleria foot traffic is up 7% since 2021, and sales grew 13.5%. It ended 2021 with 95% of spaces leased, and sales per square foot were over $600. There has been a strong leasing demand with several new retailers, such as Belong Gaming, Palmetto Moon, Puffy Cotton Candy, Cotton On Kids and Magnolia Soap & Bath Co. Santa visits are now available and will be through Dec. 24.
“There’s a deeper meaning to shopping local at the store,” Wright said. “Each of those stores at the mall employs your neighbors. Each pays taxes that support our schools, our community, our roads and first responders. Before you hit that buy button online, come see what else is in store and meet us at the mall.”
Hood invited the audience to Small Business Saturday on Nov.26. It will feature special promotions all day, and a heated and handicapped-accessible Hop & Shop trolley will ferry visitors along Franklin’s Main Street.
“Small Business Saturday is so special in downtown Franklin,” Hood said previously. “Our merchants are offering some incredible specials. … We can’t wait to celebrate with everyone while the holiday season is in full swing!”
Dickens of a Christmas is on Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Dec. 11 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will feature photo opportunities, vignettes of "A Christmas Carol" and three stages of music and entertainment.
Breckenridge is excited for the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, an annual fundraiser run raising money for families in need. Adult registration is $35, which equals 140 meals. On Dec. 13-16, GraceWorks is also hosting The Manger at Franklin First United Methodist Church, an annual free Christmas shopping experience to help low-income families provide Christmas gifts for their children.
“We are hoping to serve about 4,000 kids with toys this year, so we hope you support that,” Breckenridge said.