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Shop Small Merchant Series – Franklin’s General Store & The Boardwalk

Shop Small continues to be an annual shopping tradition — just one part of the larger Shop Small Movement to support small businesses every day and everywhere. Because a visit to our family-owned Village, shoppes, and restaurants not only supports our local economy but also promotes a thriving community.

Name of your stores: Franklin’s General Store & The BoardWalk

Your name and relationship to stores: Jim Holley, Owner & Proprietor

How long have you been in the Village? Franklin’s 34 years – The BoardWalk 5 years

How did the idea for your businesses come about?
Franklin’s originally was a Hickory Farms Store from 1976-1984. The Original Owner, Frank Davis saw the need for a unique general gift store in Mystic and enlarged the space to 3,300 square feet and Franklin’s was born. My wife and I purchased the store in 2008 after being customers for nearly 20 years. Since we purchased Franklin’s we have expanded the product choices from 3,000 to 7,000 gift choices. This product growth has given our customers many more choices and has significantly helped us to over double the business since 2008 and create more jobs.

The BoardWalk opened September 2013. Despite Mystic being a popular, and well-known coastal community there wasn’t a gift store that focused its selection on gifts you might expect to find by the shore. Gifts that reflect the feeling of the sea or a source for quick bites like soft serve, fried dough, fresh lemonade, hot dogs, fries and more. Thus, The BoardWalk was founded, featuring gifts and food you would expect to find by the shore that everyone can afford. This is the only gift store that also has fast service take-out food in all of New England.

What makes your store(s) so special?
Our stores, while different in product choices, both have unique, fun, and energetic environments.

As you enter Franklin’s, you’ll feel like you stepped back in time a hundred years. The wide selection of quality products, the finest customer service, and consistently low prices will be appreciated as you make your way through the store. In the pantry you’ll find hundreds of specialty foods and the enticing aroma of freshly made fudge and roasting nuts. As New England’s # 1 Fudge Store, we have up to 32 flavors, made fresh daily. Come in and taste “America’s Finest Fudge!” As you stroll through the gift portion of our store you will be enchanted with over 7000 quality products and are sure to find that perfect gift! Home accessories, apparel, books, puzzles, games & toys, specialty foods, and candy are just some of the neat gifts we sell. At Franklin’s General Store our goal is for you to have a truly memorable shopping experience!

As you enter The BoardWalk you will notice a gift shop like no other in New England. A mix of affordable home and personal accessories, wall art, children’s toys, Apparel, Jewelry, Candy and souvenirs give this store a bright emporium like atmosphere. Within this same 2250 square feet we also have a clean and efficient quick Bites take out concession. From fresh lemonade and fried dough, to hot dogs, fries, and chicken tenders are just some of the yummy food we make. Soft serve, slushies, shakes, and cold drinks will keep you cool during the warmer months. Our goal is for you to have fun and know, “It’s always a good time at The BoardWalk!”

What about your stores are you the most proud of?
Our Team! We are most proud of the people that work in our stores. They are hardworking, loyal, great people that care about our customers. They are responsible for the great service and growth our stores have seen over the years. The majority of our team have been with us between 5 and 24 years. In fact, two of our managers have been with us over 20 years, while many other’s have been here 12-15 years. Remarkable!

What motivates you every day?
I love the interaction with our customers. Making a first-time visitor into an ongoing loyal patron is paramount to our long-term success. We must do better each and every year, for the sake of our customers and the success of our staff. Running a retail business is definitely most challenging, as there are so many intricacies to manage on a daily basis. We never have acceptance of mediocrity or regression. We are constantly seeking ways to improve our stores and our customer’s experience.

What do you like the most about being in the Village?
Olde Mistick Village offers a most unique environment for our visitors as well as our local community. It brings us a wide variety of customers from all over the northeast. The charm of an old-fashioned village is something that is timeless. It brings a feeling of relaxation and contentment you can never get when shopping and dining in today’s hardscape environments. The charm of the buildings and beauty of our pathways turn a first time visit into a lasting memory and a need to return. Our stores are all unique in product selection and offer gifts one is unlikely to find in a big box store or in the impersonal environment of on-line. Customers can count on an interactive experience where personal service and a fun respite can be found in each and every store. Whether you need an afternoon to yourself or a place to visit that helps you forget the challenges of daily life, Olde Mistick Village is here for you. Great stores, great restaurant, great people, and a great environment!

In what ways does your business give back to the community in and around Mystic?
Over the years we have been actively involved in the production of a number of quality events in Olde Mistick Village, including Cabin Fever, Garlic Festival, and Holiday Carnival. The proceeds are donated to local charities, like ‘The Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center’ and ‘Always Home’.

Our business and our family personally donate to many causes and nonprofit organizations in our Mystic/Stonington community as well as New London County. On our list is each year is ‘Always Home’, ‘Sofia Sees Hope’, local schools & churches, cancer drives, various nonprofit functions, our great military personnel, as well as special requests for families in need.

I have served on The Board of Directors for The Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, helping to support small business and currently reside on the Board for The OMV Merchant’s Association. Another commitment to community is our involvement on the Board of The Uconn Alumni Association where our group of seven raise thousands of dollars each year to be given to deserving students at our local Avery Point campus in Groton.

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