The two-story building is part artist co-op, part mini-mall and completely captivating. There is a waiting list for artists to rent everything from an 18-inch cubicle to 15 feet of floor space to display and sell their wares. The 16,000-square-foot shop is set up similar to an old antiques mall, each space distinctively individual.
Local artists include painters and potters, photographers, jewelers and candle makers, just to name a few. It’s not unusual on weekends and during a monthly downtown celebration known as ArtWalk, to catch these artists live at work in the store. Not just painters and weavers but performance artists and musicians as well.
Dozens of entrepreneurs and artists rent space in the two-story building of The Franklin Shops in downtown Fort Myers — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
The Franklin Shops has more than just local artists using its space; budding entrepreneurs often lease plots of real estate to gauge interest in their creative enterprises. These endeavors are more often than not second jobs and give people with great ideas a chance to get started without so much overhead.
For instance, one artist has been a police officer for two decades but loves to paint and create whimsical boxes, boat paddles and other fun items. Another occupant loves all things animal and has created a popular stop for not only unique accessories but also healthful products for pets.
Then there is the tenant who always loved fashion but couldn’t find what she wanted in local stores. She searches out small production lines of apparel and hats, creating her own boutique without having to come up with the capital to obtain a stand-alone building that may or may not make it.
There have been quite a few instances where the ideas birthed in these small rented spaces grew to the point where the artists and entrepreneurs were ready to move into a larger place of their own.
A dressing room designed by artist Jerry McGreens — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
Seizing every opportunity to give you the chance to buy something unique, the dressing rooms are even set up as mini galleries. The theme of the painted doors carries through once they are closed, and just about everything in them is for sale.
In this one-stop shop of pop-up retailers and talented artists, you can pick up a constantly changing array of home decor, fine designs, novelty items, books and inspirational cards. If you're looking for a unique gift or memento from your trip to Fort Myers, you are sure to find something special at The Franklin Shops.