By Britney Anderson
Imagine a town that’s neither forgotten the past nor remained stuck in it; a town with a rich history, including one of the Civil War’s largest battles — regularly reenacted — but also one of the fastest growing cities in its state. Imagine a town with a real city square, a strong country vibe and a bold streak of sophistication, and you’ve about got Franklin, Tennessee.
Joni Werthan is the owner and president of Warioto Farm, an active hunter-jumper farm about five miles from Franklin’s Town Square. Warioto has been in Joni’s family for three generations. After having become famous for gaited horses in the ’30s and ’40s, Warioto was reopened in the ’70s by Joni and her longtime friend Julie Bush.
Now celebrating 35 years in the hunter business, Joni has lived full-time in Franklin for 20 years. In addition to her role at Warioto, Joni shows two of her own horses in the 2’6” divisions. Joni knows her hometown well, and is happy to share her expertise with those coming to Franklin for the Brownland Farm Horse Shows, or for any other reason.
Franklin’s blend of small-town charm and modern sophistication make it welcoming to anyone. “We have some really upscale restaurants,” Joni said, “yet you can wear jeans everywhere. You can dress up if you want, but if you don’t you can just put on a pair of Levis or whatever and go.”
Franklin’s Main Street was sixth on USA Today’s “Top 10 Best Main Streets in the USA” and should be the top of any visitor’s to-do list, whether to shop, eat, be entertained or all of the above. “If you want something for lunch, you can go to a great place called Gray’s Drug, now GRAY’S on Main, which was originally a drug store and is now a fabulous restaurant,” Joni shared.
“It’s really fun because you’re walking up and down Main Street, and so many of these are right there. So you can look in wonderful galleries, we have some great shopping, and then you can go into Mellow Mushroom to have a great pizza.”
Looking to celebrate a special occasion, or just enjoy a nice night out? The Red Pony, Cork & Cow, or Saffire have you covered. “Then there’s a wonderful little gem just off of one of the side roads, Trattoria A, and it’s just a wonderful Italian restaurant. That’s just to name a few,” Joni said.
Since Franklin is only a heartbeat away from Nashville — Music City U.S.A — it’s not surprising that entertainment is of no short supply in Franklin. Many restaurants, such as Puckett’s and GRAY’S on Main, frequently have live music. “There’s a little hole in the wall right off the center of Franklin called Kimbros, and you can go in there and get hamburgers and fries, and listen to all of this great music. It’s this very inclusive sort of a dinner-bar-music venue. It’s so much fun,” Joni said.
Before you leave Main Street, be sure to check out the Franklin Theatre. “Really I’d say that the anchor of Franklin’s entertainment is the old Franklin Theatre,” said Joni. “It was revamped, and they’ve got country singers, or they’ve got movies, or they’ll have plays, or different creative events.”
Hop on a trolley or ride a bike from Main Street to The Factory any Wednesday night to get your fill of music and perhaps dine at Saffire or just explore the many shops. “It was actually the old Jamison mattress factory that’s been turned into a venue where they have lots and lots of stores,” Joni explained, “ranging from antique stores to various gift shops.”
If you’re still in a shopping mood, Franklin can keep you well satisfied. “There’s a place right on Main Street where there’s a variety of stores, called Shops on Main,” said Joni. “We also have a shop called White’s Mercantile, and then we have a gorgeous store called The Registry that sells beautiful wedding gifts and flatware and some very high-end gifts.”
Brownland Farm, a family tradition, excellent facility and home to many prestigious horse shows, is not even 10 minutes from the heart of Franklin.
“It really is a lovely place,” Joni concluded of her hometown. “It’s got a little something for everyone. I think that’s what makes it so fun for the horsey set, because they can come in and have supper here, there’s shopping, and there are fun activities. Franklin is a fun, diverse horse show getaway.”
All photos courtesy of VisitFranklin.com.