The Mayor’s Corner: What Really Is Franklin’s Brand?

With Tom Briggs

At the recent public information meeting at the Town Hall regarding the proposal to build a Dollar General store in the Town of Franklin, I was impressed with the responses from the audience, both pro and con.

One Franklin resident’s position was especially evocative. He stated that in marketing terms, Franklin has a special brand that makes it unique within the Western Catskill region. With its abundance of charming mid-19th century homes (I am paraphrasing) and its stately Main Street architecture, the village is fortunate to have remained so well-preserved. The resident maintained that the addition of a Dollar General would significantly and visually compromise this brand. Others agreed, expressing their concern that property values would be negatively affected and the brand would be blemished.

Another town resident, speaking in favor of the Dollar General, reflected on an instance where she found herself having to feed unexpected guests. She was unable to find what she needed at the local Quickway and was forced to drive out of town to purchase her supplies. To her, the proposed store would offer the convenience of shopping locally with the additional benefit of competitive pricing.

In the back of the room sat the owner of the property directly across from the proposed site of the store, the person who would lose the most if the store is built. He is a successful businessman who returned to his hometown several years ago to purchase one of the most prized homes in the area. He has invested a great deal of time and money to craft a picturesque and valuable property. It would be a bitter pill to look across the street every day and every evening to view a convenience store in all its gaudy, florescent glory, replacing what used to be a pleasant tree-studded wetland.

Regardless of the outcome of this proposal, there will be those who will be pleased and those who will be upset. But how will this affect Franklin’s brand? To answer this, we need a better sense of what Franklin’s brand really is.

I am a history buff with a deep appreciation for old houses. One reason that I moved to Franklin thirteen years ago was its physical charm. But having lived and worked in Delaware County for most of my life, I’ve learned a bit about the qualities that our various hamlets and villages possess. Some are more welcoming, some more humble, others more active, and others less cohesive. What are some other qualities that speak to Franklin’s brand?

Good neighbors: A few winters ago, when I was recovering from a hip replacement, my good neighbor on my left took it upon himself to shovel my walks after snowfalls. More recently, my neighbor on my right mowed my front lawn when it looked like I wasn’t keeping up with it. Other neighbors have organized progressive dinners to which we have been invited to participate as well barbeques and other get-togethers.

Citizen involvement: I’m so impressed with the history of the Village Park. Not the town or the village but community members themselves conceived the idea, rolled up their sleeves, cleared the land, planted and manicured the front lots, and now are developing walking trails up the hill behind. Healthy communities have residents who take ownership of the needs of the community.

Emergency Services: With so many small communities having trouble recruiting and training firemen and emergency squad members, Franklin still has an active and robust volunteer fire department and emergency squad. This is an asset that is essential to a healthy community.

Culture and education: With the Franklin Stage Company, our excellent public library, three book clubs, a lively farmers’ market, and a decent school with very good community support, Franklin is a good place to raise children and to stimulate minds.

A caring community: Nothing says more about Franklin’s ‘brand’ than the community-wide response to the tragedy that almost took the lives of two young boys at the end of the first day of school last month. Within only days after the accident, a fundraiser was organized and hundreds of well-wishers from all walks of life, many of whom did not know the boys or their families, showed up to express their support and donate their money.

But to tell you the truth, I would have been surprised if people from this community hadn’t come out for this fundraiser. There’s an understanding that this is just what we do in Franklin. This is our brand and this is what really counts.

Whether we get a Dollar General here or not has little to do with the essence of Franklin’s brand. What defines us is that we care about each other and we recognize that this village of Franklin is a good place to live.