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Main Spotlight: Women Leading Change on Main Street in Franklin, Michigan

October 18, 2022 | Main Spotlight: Women Leading Change on Main Street in Franklin, Michigan | By: Pam Hansen, former Franklin Village President |
Franklin’s women business owners. Photo by Crystal Proxmire, Publisher, Oakland County Times.

Franklin, Michigan is a small historic village in Southeast Michigan, just outside of the Detroit city limits. Established in 1828 and chartered in 1954, the village was the first designated State Historic District in Michigan. As all places do, Franklin evolved over time, but the historical development patterns and architecture remained. Fostering community, protecting valuable natural and recreational resources, and holding lively cultural events and activities are part of the way of life in this largely volunteer-run district.

Franklin became an Oakland County (MI) Main Street community in 2008 because of a Village Council commitment to revitalize the downtown business district. A director was hired, and a non-profit (501c3) entity was established and continues today.

Buildings have been repurposed over time and continue to be, sometimes to the chagrin of purists. The Village Center is mixed use – there are homes, gardens, and garages mixed in with a fitness studio, an auto repair shop and a high-end women’s clothing store. In 2019, the Village embarked on a major street improvement project to beautify the downtown area, enable safe walking and upgrade street infrastructure.

Women have been an integral part of the civic and business leadership fabric in Franklin for many years. There have been a handful of women council members over the years, but the first female Village President was elected in 2016 and the current Assistant Administrator is female. Now, all retail stores and all but a handful of professional and service businesses in Franklin are women owned and managed.

Yes, there is something special about women business owners

Qualities like optimism, purpose-driven, integrity, willingness to learn, resilience, persistence, relying on “gut” feelings along with facts/data in making decisions, adaptability, communication skills, empathy, willingness to connect with and support others describe successful women entrepreneurs in business literature. Franklin women business owners agree.
Franklin women business owners have used these strengths to create attractive storefronts, improve walkability, reduce physical barriers to building access and improve lighting to make it easy for customers to do business with them. Business owners also work together on creative ways to draw in shoppers to the village.

After 22 years, Franklin Auto Service owner Pam Migliore doesn’t think a lot about being a woman in the auto repair business, but she notes that when women customers come in to describe a problem with their car, they relax and have told her they were relieved when they talk with her about their reasons for coming in for service. Pam is open and uses her empathy skills to help customers feel comfortable in an industry where experiences are often different. Pam is an active Main Street Franklin Board Treasurer because she believes in Main Street and wants input into village decision making.

Pam’s business had to close during Michigan’s COVID shutdown. As employees went on unemployment, she knew they would eventually be able to reopen but it still felt terrible. She and her co-owner brother kept the best interests of their employees in mind throughout the pandemic. The business is thriving once again.

Lisa Dunn, owner of Déjà Vu Upscale Resale Boutique wanted a winter event that would draw customers into the store with something beyond a simple sale. An idea came from a volunteer to create “Shop Your Heart Out.” Six Franklin retailers donated gifts and refreshments to shoppers who brought in new and gently used bras and female products for girls and women in need. Donations went to the non-profit The response was tremendous. The event was held in February to connect it to Valentine’s Day and support small businesses run by women.

Lisa, also the Main Street Franklin Board Chair, believes shopping in the village is about the relationships between retailers and customers. People like that local store owners are available and able to provide personal service. Each retailer is unique. It is not unusual for one shop to refer customers to another Franklin store for the right products. The camaraderie and desire to support one another is real.
Downtown Franklin. Photo courtesy of Main Street Franklin.

Women also lead local government

Susan Goldstrom is Franklin’s Assistant Village Administrator. She is a member of the Main Street Franklin Board and is the government liaison. As a municipal leader, Susan understands that some of her largely female staff are growing skills for their next job and uses her skills to create an environment where they can build their expertise. Susan makes many decisions and understands the importance of using her gut and knowledge in her role, purposefully and confidently.

We are proud of the fact that two of Franklin’s Police Department officers are women and the Franklin Bingham Farms Fire Department has one female firefighter.

Franklin is a beautiful, loved, historic village. The creativity and willingness to try new ideas in business and government reflects ways Main Street, businesses, county, and local government can partner for positive change.

Author Bio

Pam Hansen is a Franklin resident, former Village President and Main Street Franklin fan. She was one of authors of the 2007 Master Plan that led to joining the Main Street Oakland County (MSOC) program. In addition to her current role as a Village Trustee, Pam’s professional commitments include organization and leadership development, team coaching and strategy implementation in public and private sectors.