Mike Wolfe – Preserving Main Street Franklin and Small-Town America

Imagine owning a slice of “America’s Favorite Main Street” in the heart of Franklin, Tennessee. One of the most prominent buildings in historic downtown Franklin is for sale at 345 Main Street, home of White’s Mercantile. Don’t worry, folks. White’s is not going anywhere. 

This spectacular building is owned by Mike Wolfe of “American Pickers” fame. He is selling this nostalgic piece of Franklin’s history, and we can’t wait to tell you the backstory. Mike is one of America’s greatest preservationists and storytellers.

America’s Small-Town Storyteller of Bygone Treasures

Mike Wolfe, American Picker

With the help of Franklin’s Bill Powell, Mike’s team not only restored the building back to its original splendor with great notoriety but has protected the first-level space as a retail store. The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County gave the building its ultimate preservation award in 2017. 

A huge reason this magnificent building is so essential to Main Street is its first-floor occupant, White’s Mercantile. Penned as “a general store for the modern-day tastemaker,” this fabulous store is owned by country music royalty Holly Williams, granddaughter of Hank Williams, Sr., and daughter of Hank Williams, Jr. 

There is so much more to Holly’s story, Mike’s story, and 345 Main Street’s story. So, saddle up and hang on for this fascinating ride back to 1890 when this building was first constructed.

Historic Main Street Franklin

BGA Boys sweeping Main Street Franklin

Built over 130 years ago for James P. Moore and Martha “Mattie” Crockett Moore during the Victorian period, the architecture of this building features stunning arched windows with the fabulous views of Main Street. Its detailed brick facade brought sophistication to downtown Franklin during the turn of the century. Back then, it was common in downtown to see the owner’s name at the top edge of the front exterior, like in this case, The Moore Block 1890.

Notice the cast-iron columns used to support the front entrance. These were made from melted-down armaments from the Civil War. The elegant front doors and windows are symmetrically balanced and easy on the eye.

Walter Aiken Roberts – “The Developer of Main Street Franklin”

The first known business located here was Spot Cash Grocery in 1892, operated by House & Webb. In 1925, the Moore’s granddaughter, Mrs. Katherine Moore Armistead, and her husband, Parkes Armistead, sold the building to Walter Aiken Roberts, a prominent local businessman. 

Mr. Roberts is a legend in this town. He is affectionately known as “The Developer of Main Street Franklin.”  He invested heavily in real estate, but especially on Main Street, owning several buildings including this property at 345 Main Street. You can read our backstory on Walter A. Roberts and his family’s role in preserving Franklin.

Big-Time Grocery Stores Come to Main Street!

He sold the building to the H.G. Hill Company in 1925, which operated on the right side where the gift shop, The Registry (at 347), is currently located. Ironically, Piggly Wiggly was located at 345. 

H.G. Hills in the Moore Block in Franklin. Photo credit: Rick Warwick

So, over the years, this building has been several businesses. Walter Roberts Green, Sr. had his engineering office on the second floor. He was named after his grandfather and was active in local government.

Front left: Frank Carl lived on Fair Street and owned a clothing store at 345 Main Street. Joe and Mary Carl in center. Other children: Eliza Davis, O.C. Carl, Jim Carl, and Robert (back center with his wife). Photo credit: Rick Warwick

The first floor of 345 Main Street has seen a variety of retailers, including Frank Carl’s men’s clothing store, Piggly Wiggly grocery store, an antique store, a hair salon, Magic Memories, and Lulu’s gift shop. As mentioned, today the building houses one of Franklin’s most beloved gift shops, White’s Mercantile.

Piggly Wiggly at 345 Main Street, Franklin, TN. Photo credit: Rick Warwick

Mr. Preservation America Meets Mr. Preservation Franklin

Mike Wolfe was the perfect person to restore this significant building. He is truly Mr. Preservation. He made antiques cool again. Mike showed us how a little dinge and rust were a good thing. His Antique Archeology stores in Nashville and Le Claire, Iowa, along with his series “American Pickers” on the History Channel, are all testaments to Mike’s appreciation of the past. 

Bill Powell is pictured here with Mike Wolfe and his brother Charles Powell at the vintage barn Bill built.

What you might not know is that Mike has restored several homes, including one located in the Leiper’s Fork area of Franklin with his friend Bill Powell. Bill is a legend in Franklin. For almost five decades, Bill has restored 75 of Franklin’s most historic homes and buildings, including the White’s Mercantile location and the old fire rescue squad building that is home to Franklin Road Apparel. You can read our feature on Bill Powell here.

345 Main Street in Franklin in the 1970s

A Business Partnership Made in Preservation Heaven

Main Street Franklin painting by award-winning artist Rusty Summerville.

Restoring 345 Main Street was just an extension of Mike’s passion for saving small-town America. He says, “Main Street USA is really the roots of our country. From the specialty retail stores to the historic architecture, this is what makes people want to come downtown, especially in Franklin. This is why American history, its values, and its stories must be preserved.”

His business partnership with Holly has been a match made in heaven. She too is a seeker of relics and curator of all things vintage and sentimental. In today’s throw-away society, they both are inspirations for those of us who see the urgency of honoring our past before those memories are erased or forgotten.

White’s Mercantile – A Family Tradition

Holly Williams – White’s Mercantile

Enter the lovely Holly Williams. Growing up in the spotlight of country music legends might be daunting for some people. For Holly, it only propelled her to find her own path. She says, “The Williams name has neither hurt, nor helped. It’s where I’m from, and I’m incredibly proud of it!”

Country Music Royalty in Downtown Franklin

Holly’s paternal grandparents – Audrey Williams & Hank Williams, Sr.

The younger generation may not have an awareness or appreciation for Holly’s grandfather, Grand Ole Opry legend Hank Williams, Sr. He was the first artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and was later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was named one of the Greatest Men of Country Music by CMT, and even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. With over 55 recordings, it’s not easy to pick a favorite song, but “Lovesick Blues” is pretty awesome. His legacy has influenced generations of artists from Elvis to Johnny Cash, and everyone in between.

Holly Williams and husband Chris Coleman at the Ryman. Photo Credit: Kate York

Since music is part of Holly’s DNA, she was destined to become a genuine singer-songwriter like her father and grandfather. However, Holly didn’t spend the majority of her childhood in Nashville. She grew up in Mer Rouge, Louisiana, with her mom’s side of the family. She never met her paternal grandparents, Hank Sr. or Audrey, but honoring their legacy along with her mother’s parents has been important to her.

Holly’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Comes to Nashville, Then Franklin

After spending years on the road with her own music career, Holly decided to follow another family tradition: retailing. She opened her popular clothing boutique in Nashville’s Green Hills neighborhood called H. Audrey, which attracts celebrities and locals alike. It was named after her grandmother, Audrey Williams, who was married to Hank Sr. Many people don’t know that Audrey was a music publisher and helped form the Nashville talent agency Aud Lee with Buddy Lee, which eventually became Buddy Lee Attractions.  

Holly’s maternal grandparents – June and Warren White

In 2013 Holly had another vision. Her maternal great-grandfather owned a mercantile store in the 1800s in Louisiana. She decided to open White’s Mercantile, naming it after her maternal grandparents, Warren and June White. That store is located in a beautifully restored old gas station in the trendy 12 South District of Nashville.

White’s Mercantile in Nashville, TN

Her entire shop is filled with items Holly personally curates from her extensive music travels and great local finds. Holly explains, “I wanted to create a shop where people could come pick up kitchen essentials, local specialty foods, fabulous books, candles, baby shower gifts, a floppy hat, a men’s shaving kit, a birthday card, and a cool locally-made apron, all in one place!”

“Granny and Papaw are always in the back of my mind.”

White’s Mercantile – 345 Main Street in Franklin, TN

Then in December of 2015, just in time for holiday shopping, Holly opened her second White’s Mercantile location downtown right in this building at 345 Main Street. It is truly one of the most beloved retail shops in Franklin.

White's Mercantile Downtown Franklin TN
White’s Mercantile – 345 Main Street in Franklin, TN

“My maternal grandparents had an amazing sense of style and appreciated good craftsmanship. My Granny and Papaw are always in the back of my mind when I’m buying.”

White’s Mercantile – 345 Main Street in Franklin, TN

The store charms locals and tourists equally. Every time you visit, there is always something fresh, stylish, and seasonal. You can even purchase art by her multi-talented husband, Chris Coleman.

Mike’s Restorations in Columbia and Leiper’s Fork

Mike Wolfe’s Two Lanes Guest House – Columbia, TN

Mike and Holly also love to preserve old homes and spaces for vacation rentals. You can book Mike’s Two Lanes Guest House in Columbia, Tenn. Holly has some beautiful vacation cottages for rent. My personal favorite is Sweeney Cottage in Leiper’s Fork.

Mike Wolfe’s Leiper’s Fork restoration at 5401 Old Highway 96, Franklin, TN

Mike restored this Leiper’s Fork historic home, another fabulous restoration project with Bill Powell. Originally built in 1920, “John’s House” has been given new life through the vision of Mike Wolf, star and producer of “American Pickers,” and the design talents of local historic preservationists Bill Powell, whose renovations have been featured in magazines such as Southern Living and Country Home

5401 Old Highway 96, Franklin, TN

As the home was rebuilt, parts of the original structure were incorporated into the new design. The front door was repurposed as a side door, and the bead board was refurbished and then reincorporated throughout the house. The fireplace was recreated with Indiana limestone that was hand hewn on site. The new windows were designed to replicate the original windows, and the two-story garage/barn was inspired by a barn at Franklin Roosevelt’s home at Hyde Park, New York. Modern-day features accompany this renovated historical home with a soul and a story. There is a calm creek that runs at the back of the 2-acre lot and is just a 9-minute walk to the Leiper’s Fork village.

Lovely Franklin – Preserving Franklin’s Best Backstories

Buffie Baril – Lovely Franklin

Lovely Franklin honors Mike, Bill, and Holly for their tremendous preservation work in Franklin. Please enjoy one of my personal favorite songs by Holly, “Waiting on June.” It brings a flood of tears to my eyes every time I listen. Holly is a true storyteller, and this emotional song honors the beautiful legacy of her grandparents, Warren and June White, the inspiration for White’s Mercantile. Grab a tissue.

Sharing the backstories of historic Franklin with love,

About Lovely Franklin

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