Emily C. Roush
The Ashland Beacon
For siblings Leslie Fowler Jarvis and Brent Fowler, going into business together has been an “adventure.” The pair opened gift and home décor boutique Fraklin & Doodles on November 26, 2021 at 319 Ferry Street in downtown Russell. According to Leslie, the store offers a variety of items including, “gourmet dip mixes, pillows, tea towels, bourbon and equestrian prints, champagne flutes and stemless wine glasses. We have something for everyone.” She also explained the special meaning behind the store’s quirky moniker. “Franklin is the name of my son's dog. This dog is a rescue dog with a personality that makes you smile. Doodles is the name I called my son when he was little. I joked that I thought I would open a business and call it Franklin & Doodles. Every time I said that to someone they smiled.” When Leslie and Brent began talks of opening a store, neither could think of another name, so Fraklin & Doodles became the winner.
The pair felt that the timing was right last year to open Franklin & Doodles for a variety of reasons. “I think we were both in a place, personally and professionally, where we were looking for a new adventure,” recalled Leslie. Their strong roots in Russell and love of the community made opening a store there the obvious choice. “We were raised in the Kenwood area of Russell. We grew up in, what was then, Russell First Christian Church, attended and graduated from the Russell school system, and spent our summers at Tranquilin Pool. This is our hometown.”
While Brent stayed in the area to raise his family, Leslie moved to Lexington 30 years ago. Although she settled elsewhere, she always felt a strong connection to her hometown. Leslie and Brent felt that opening a small business would contribute to the positive changes they believe are taking place in the community and help develop Russell’s downtown economy. She explained, “we were watching the developments with Revitalize Russell. We tossed around ideas and sketched out the plans for Franklin & Doodles. I live in Lexington, and I can name 10 plus local gift boutiques off the top of my head. We wanted to create that same concept in Russell.”
Leslie noted that she has witnessed the positive effects of small businesses in Lexington and sees how they could contribute to her hometown. “I worked several years for the local government in Lexington. I am a huge supporter of local governments and the local economy. I also think the tide is shifting and more people are seeking the simpler side of life. A community where everyone knows your name and makes you feel welcome. Aside from that, small businesses can have a positive financial impact on the community. Businesses generate visitors, who generate revenue, and that revenue creates a thriving community in which to work and live.”
Last summer, Leslie and Brent decided to make their dream of opening Franklin & Doodles a reality. “I am not sure who said ‘let's do this’ first. The next thing I know, we are attending a Revitalize Russell committee meeting this past August and asking if anyone had a storefront we could lease,” she recalled. While the prospect of opening a business with a sibling is baffling to some, the Fowler siblings take it in stride. Leslie believes that she and Brent bring different, equally important strengths to Franklin & Doodles. “Many people have asked us how we manage to work together. We are fortunate in that we both bring different skill sets to this business. I joke that I am the brains, and he is the charm. But all joking aside, we are very different people in personality.”
While Leslie sources merchandise and has staged the store, Brent takes the lead on customer service. She explained, “he is definitely the face of the business, the people person that makes [everyone who] walks in the door feel special.” Leslie also emphasized how encouraging the rest of their family has been of Franklin & Doodles. “We have a very supportive family. Our mother has put price tags on merchandise. Our kids have helped unload boxes, check out customers, and display the merchandise.” She gave a special shoutout to her sister-in-law. “I would say another big support is [Brent’s] wife, Barb. Not many wives would have supported their husband quitting a full-time job to take this leap of faith with his sister.”
While opening Franklin & Doodles has presented challenges, it has also been a rewarding experience and creative outlet for both Leslie and Brent. “There has been some stress with getting the store open, getting inventory in a timely manner, and learning the intricacies of owning a business. The best part is the creativity! The creativity on my part is finding the inventory. I like stuff,” she laughed. She continued, “but I have been challenged to find the merchandise that I think will sell best in this community. Some items I have been right about, while other things not so much.” While Leslie seeks out a much of Franklin & Doodles’ merchandise, all the furniture pieces have been refinished or built by Brent. “He created a beautiful toy display. One side is the dollhouse, and the other side is the doghouse. Very creative concept,” described Leslie.
The rewards of opening Franklin & Doodles have far outweighed any challenges Leslie and Brent have experienced. “It really feels good knowing that we are creating something together as a family in our hometown that has been so well received. The posts on Facebook from happy customers who have visited the store bring smiles to our faces!” exclaimed Leslie. It is also meaningful to her that their store is part of a larger effort to draw people to downtown Russell. “The development that has occurred in downtown Russell is phenomenal and it makes us proud that we are making a contribution. I love seeing people walk down the sidewalk in Russell with shopping bags in hand. I told Brent last weekend that this store has definitely become my happy place.” Leslie also expressed her excitement about the future of Fraklin & Doodles. “Our next step will be to have a website where our customers can shop online. We do have big plans! Stay tuned!”
Franklin & Doodles is currently open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The store plans to expand hours during the summer and peak shopping seasons. Updates, announcements, and information about new merchandise can be found on the store’s Facebook and Instagram pages.