Elf and Santa-themed decor on display at Vintage Whimsy this week, in preparation for the Downtown Franklin Holiday Open House on Nov. 4 to 6. About 40 downtown businesses will welcome shoppers with special merchandise and other incentives, with people who visit at least 10 participating shops eligible for special prizes.


The halls have been decked and the holiday spirit is in the air throughout downtown Franklin.

Shimmering Christmas trees fill the storefront windows. Vintage Santas of every shape and size adorn the shelves. Evergreen and holly is everywhere you look.

Classic songs such as “Let it Snow” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” are inescapable.

Halloween may have just passed a few days ago, but downtown businesses have the holidays on their minds. More than 40 local boutiques, eateries and shops will have their festive best ready for customers during the Holiday Open House — an annual tradition in Franklin.

Now in its 10th year, shopper can search for one-of-a-kind gifts, from clothing to jewelry to home decor and much, much more, while also being eligible to win more than $2,000 in prizes.

The open house not only jump-starts the holiday shopping season for small businesses, but showcases the best of what Franklin is all about, said Jennifer McAlpin-Shireman, owner of Vintage Whimsy.

“It’s a very important event for Franklin,” she said. “It gives people an opportunity, not just locally but from surrounding areas, to see what we have to offer. A lot of people are surprised that there’s so much here — that there are so many different stores here. We really have something for everybody.”

Preparations have been ongoing for the Holiday Open House for weeks.

Visitors to Take Root Country Store were greeted with an overwhelming display of tinsel, trees, and everything holiday-themed in their downtown store. Toodleydoo Toys had stocked its shelf with kid-friendly gifts, everything from Magna-Tiles to baby dolls to the latest brain-boosting games.

At Farm Girl Mercantile, lights have been strung, vintage trees have been set up and the rustic decor is arranged just so.

For McAlpin-Shireman, getting Vintage Whimsy ready for the event is a weeks-long process.

“We spend around two weeks in the store getting ready, but really, it’s months of planning before. We have a variety — vintage and antiques and new. So we’re ordering new stuff in January, receiving it in July and making preparations for the first week of November,” she said. “It’s always exciting because there are so many new things.”

The Holiday Open House was created in 2012, when a pair of local business owners decided to band together and host events and activities at their individual stores all on the same day.

Tauria Catlin, co-owner of Middle Davids Artisan Candles, and Debi Pierson, owner of what is now known as Toodleydoo Toys, spearheaded the effort to show people what’s available for shopping at the holiday season.

“We wanted to have one that focused on the businesses, because we have a lot of events that bring in vendors, so this was a chance to get the businesses to shine a little bit,” Catlin said. “If we all did them at the same time, it would be worth it for people to come down to Franklin all at the same time.”

The event has grown in participation each year. Now, more than 1,000 people wander from shop to shop throughout downtown Franklin.

This year’s event will be the largest it has ever been, McAlpin-Shireman said.

“It’s the first year we’re doing it three days. Normally, it’s just Friday and Saturday, but we added Sunday this year. So there will be even more days for people to come out,” she said.

All different kinds of businesses are taking part. People can pick up artwork from some of the region’s best artists at Generation Art and Frame. Sift through wonderfully preserved architectural items at Madison Street Salvage. Grab the latest bestsellers or longtime favorite books at Wild Geese Bookshop.

This will be the first year that the crew at FrenChic will be taking part. The shop sells unique antique, restored and new items for individuals and homes, with inspiration from a European and French style.

“I grew up in Europe, and I was inspired by the decor out there. I was surrounded by really cool decor, architecture, museums, and I wanted to bring a bit of that flair to Franklin. I think that style really goes with a lot of the other styles you can find downtown,” said Tanya Stainbrook, owner of the shop.

FrenChic has been open since 2020, but unveiled its Franklin store in October. Stainbrook is very excited about having the chance to show off their space by taking part in the Holiday Open House.

“Out of all of the places in Indiana, Franklin has the best shopping, because there is such a variety. We have mid-century modern, we have primitives, we have farmhouse, we have boho,” she said. “With our store opening up, we don’t have a store that has that European flair. I felt we’d be an asset to this event.”

Not everything is about finding gifts, either. Restore your energy with food from Field to Fork, Norma Jean’s Pastries and RFD Franklin. Caffeinate your experience with stops at Main and Madison Market Cafe, 1823 Bakehouse, Benjamin’s Coffeehouse & Bakeshop, the Local Grind or Coffeehouse Five.

Attractions such as 10 Pins Franklin and the Johnson County Museum of History are also involved.

“It’s to show people what’s available in Franklin. It has kind of become a ‘ladies day out’ and a kickoff to the holiday season for a lot of people,” Catlin said.

Over the course of three days from Nov. 4 to 6, people can visit any of the participating stores and have the chance to win one of the prizes organizers have lined up. Visit any participating business downtown to pick up a map of the open house, as well as a punch card.

Once you visit at least 10 participating businesses and get the card punched, you’re eligible for prizes — no purchase necessary.

Prizes this year include a $500 membership to the Historic Artcraft Theatre, two $250 gift cards, and 10 prize packages each worth $100.

But even those who don’t end up winning a prize will have fun, McAlpin-Shireman said.

“We do a lot of events in Franklin, but this is one of my favorites. People are happy, they’re in such a good mood, they’re out with their friends or family. They’re kicking off their Christmas list, and it feels like everyone is happy, and it makes us happy,” she said.


Downtown Franklin Holiday Open House

What: A holiday-themed opportunity to visit about 40 different small businesses and shops, with $2,000 in prizes available to shoppers along the way.

When: Nov. 4-6

Where: Downtown Franklin. Maps can be found at any participating business.

Participating businesses: 10 Pins Franklin, 1823 Bakehouse, A Trophy Business, At Home With Heartland, Bay 7 Vintage, Benjamin’s Coffeehouse & Bakeshop, Brick Street Boutique, BYTAVI Boutique, Coffeehouse Five, Court Street Cafe, Creative Council of Franklin, Eclectic Jade, Farm Girl Mercantile, Franklin Jewelers, FrenChic, Frozen Paradise, Generation Art and Frame, Hoosier Cupboard Candy, Snacks and Ice Cream, Johnson County Museum of History, JP Parker Flowers, Madison Street Salvage, Main and Madison Market Cafe, Middle Davids Candles, Norma Jean’s Pastries, Possibilities: Home Re-Imagined, RFD Franklin, Salvage Sisters Antique Market, Sweat Shop of Franklin, Take Root Country Store, Thanks for the Thyme, The Grove Botany Boutique, The Knitting Otter, The Local Grind, The Mint Cocktail Lounge, The Rue Morgue Tattoo Gallery, Toodleydoo Toys, T-Shirt Express, Vintage Whimsy and Wild Geese Bookshop.