Looking back: Franklin businesses are ‘modernizing’ their store fronts

Published 10:17 am Wednesday, March 12, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: Looking Back features past articles from The Tidewater News with commentary by local historian Clyde Parker.

March 7, 1964

Many of Franklin’s Main Street businesses are replacing their old store-front look with modern-day appearances. “OUT with original but outmoded architecture and IN with the new modern look”, is the theme. This is and has been a project of the Franklin Chamber of Commerce, and the City, for the last couple of years.

After talking with several leading merchants in Franklin, it seems now that this project is in the midst of becoming reality as we look at what’s being done, and what’s planned, up and down Main Street and throughout other streets in downtown Franklin.

The block that includes the vacant Raiford Memorial Hospital building is taking on a new appearance. In that block, the owners of Thornton-Livesay Furniture Co., located on the southeastern corner of North Main Street and Third Avenue, have just completed a $50,000 expansion program. They acquired the recently vacated Tidewater News building, right next-door, and have connected directly to it. Now, Town and Country Clothing Store is right next door to Thornton-Livesay. Leroy Coburn, owner of Town and Country, said he will put in a new store front.

The building that housed Raiford takes up the remaining frontage, 200 feet, on the west side of North Main Street all the way to Second Avenue and takes up 150 feet along West Second Avenue. On that corner, Rose’s Stores, Inc. will put up a king-size modern variety store to replace the Raiford building after it is demolished.

When Rose’s moves from its present location, on the southeastern corner of Main Street and Third Avenue, to the new site across the street, a new front will go on the older store building for a future tenant.

Hasting’s Quality Shop is next door to the current Rose’s store. Hasting’s will have a new modern design as well. And, its next door neighbor, the venerable Virginian Drug Store will, surprisingly, modernize its store front.

Jones-Hayes Co., next door to the Virginian, modernized its store front years ago. The W. T. Pace building, next to Jones-Hayes, will continue with its original architecture.

Leggett’s Department Store, on East Second Avenue, has already outgrown its store, built a few years back, and is planning an addition to the existing second-floor space plus a new storefront. This announcement was recently made by R. H. Allen, store manager. “We will begin this expansion as soon as the contract is let”, said Allen.

Parker Drug Store expanded its space in 1961 when it took in the building next door that was originally occupied by Vaughan and Company Bankers. In expanding its space, not only did Parker modernize its original store front but it also altered and modernized the lower part of the old Vaughan bank building. It is said that other buildings in this block are in for modern up-to-date fronts and canopies.

Further down Main Street toward the Railroad Depot building, in the block on the East-side, Sears Roebuck and Company just completed its new front. And, Whitley Hardware, Carter Furniture and Jack’s Confectionery, in the same block, are planning new and modern fronts, to begin in the very near future. In that same block, the old Soble’s Department Store Building, now occupied by Silco Department Store, has had slight change in its frontage but basically remains with its original architecture, with no apparent plans for further change.

At the very end of South Main Street, where the old historic Bogart House stood before it was torn down last year, there is now a Be-Lo supermarket. Other businesses are in the works for that property which will become Franklin’s first shopping center.

Tidewater Bank and Trust Co., on North Main Street, now has a large and up-to-date bank and parking lot to serve its customers. To make way for the parking lot, several frame residential homes on Middle Street and Third Avenue behind the bank, were destroyed.

On East Second Avenue, The Tidewater News recently renovated the old Pace Sheet Metal Shop and will operate its newspaper plant out of that facility. With the exception of some additional windows being “cut in”, that building’s appearance will retain much of its original architecture. The A&P Grocery Store, across the parking lot from the new Tidewater News location, will keep its current appearance as will Steinhardt-Goodwin Equipment Co., next door to A&P.

Along Main Street, the “old-fashioned” granite-post street lights were recently removed and destroyed. In their place, modern high-level overhead light poles have been put in. The old street lights do not produce sufficient lighting and do not fit in with the move toward a more modern looking downtown.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is cpjeep99@yahoo.com