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Moving on up: Franklin chamber gets a new building

Moving on up: Franklin chamber gets a new building

Franklin Chamber of Commerce staff and members are excited about taking a vacant building and turning it into their new home. 

Currently cramped in the same 2,400-square-foot building on Palmer Street the chamber has occupied since 1969, the staff is now envisioning what it will do with the 8,000 square feet of space at the new location at 98 Hyatt Road.

“Won’t this be one of the nicest chamber buildings you’ve ever seen?” Linda Harbuck said as she walked through the former Simple Elegance building. After serving as the executive director of the chamber for 40 years, she’s looking forward to having a spacious new office instead of being confined to a makeshift office in the basement of the Palmer Street office.

The new building is two stories with a high-vaulted ceiling and plenty of natural light coming through skylights and large glass windows at the front entrance. The downstairs has plenty of room for staff offices, a brochure display area, and Franklin souvenirs and gifts. A curved stairway leads up to additional offices, a boardroom and other space that would be ideal for networking events and training seminars for members. 

The U.S. 441 frontage will hopefully give the chamber office, which also serves as the visitor information center, more visibility as tourists drive through the area. Cindy Cavender, director of membership and special events, said visitors had a hard time finding the welcome center on Palmer Street, but the new highway location would make it easier to direct people downtown. 

“The DOT says that 19,000 cars a day pass by this intersection and the bulk of the traffic counts bypass downtown,” Cavender said. “Our goal is to get people to our members so this will be a better location that will allow us to direct people toward Main Street.”

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A unique hallway that winds through one side of the building will also prove beneficial in the chamber’s mission to promote its members while also helping visitors identify activities to do while they’re in town. The hallway with small nooks on each side probably served as interior design samples when Simple Elegance occupied the building, but now it will serve as rental space for area attractions. 

“Twelve out of 14 spaces are spoken for already,” Cavender said about the small rental spots. “When visitors come in to ask us what there is to do around here, we will be able to actually show them.”

The space has already been leased out to attraction businesses like the Sky Valley Country Club, the Historic Cowee School, Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, The Fun Factory, a co-op of the gem mines, Scottish Tartans Museum, Highlands Aerial Park and more. 

The chamber will also be leasing out four small offices upstairs at an affordable monthly rate. Cavender said the 78- to 198-square-foot offices are perfect for business start-ups or entrepreneurs who need a small space. The cost would also include wireless internet and electricity. The building has a back stairway entrance that would allow tenants to come and go as needed whether the downstairs chamber offices are open or not. 

The chamber still has to close on the building and do some minor renovations before it can move in, but with roadway work starting soon on Palmer Street, the chamber wants to be in its new space as soon as possible.

“Our goal is to be in here by spring — we’d love to be in May 1 but we’ll have to wait and see,” Cavender said. 

Chamber President Frank Montgomery, a general contractor and owner of The Montgomery Company, said the 460-plus members are excited about the opportunity the new facility will afford them. The chamber set up a nonprofit entity — Franklin Chamber of Commerce Community Enrichment Foundation — in order to purchase the property. That way, members can make a tax-deductible donation to the purchase by sponsoring a room or space in the attraction hallway.  

“I am extremely excited about what has been accomplished this year with the chamber and the acquisition of a fantastic facility that is second to none,” Montgomery said.

For more information about the new chamber building, call Cavender at 828.524.3161.

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