The owner of Franklins opened a general store in Hyattsville 27 years ago to eliminate his commute to the city from his old Victorian home in the neighborhood. He and his wife still live on the same street, in that same house. But these days, traveling through town might take a little longer than expected—but not because of traffic.
“If you walk down the street, every block takes about 30 minutes to walk because you keep running into all the people you know and chat with. It’s a really, really good community,” Mike Franklin said.
When the Hyattsville Hardware building hit the real estate market, the toy salesman and his wife jumped on it. “It was an unbelievably cool building at the right price.” They bought it before they even knew what to put in it.
“We just thought that if we opened up the right kind of place, that the neighborhood would support us,” he said.
He turned to his roots—retail—and opened a general store with a deli in the back. But the deli—and its oversized sandwiches—outgrew the location. They had a decision to make: expand or sell.
They stayed because they wanted their two children to experience the French immersion program as part of the public school system.
“It is a story that isn’t told very often, but needs to be out there,” Franklin said. “You can have a very good experience in the Prince George’s County school system and take advantage of the really cool, down-to-earth neighborhood at the same time.”
From deli to brewery
As they expanded the deli into a full restaurant, their research showed that brewpubs had better success rates, and the craft beers in their general store were the best sellers.
“We convinced ourselves that if we opened up a brewpub, people would come; people would find us,” Franklin said.
They bought the brewing system and began a nationwide hunt for a brewmaster. They hired the first of only two brewmasters in Franklin’s 17 years as a brewpub.
They have not forgotten about the food either. Known for their delicious burgers, Franklins sources much of its ingredients locally. The Maryland dry-aged beef comes from Roseda Farm, they use a local crabber who nitrogen freezes the meat to offer Maryland crabmeat year round, and they brew at least one beer in the fall from local grain.
As far as beer, they’re known for their IPA, pale ale, and blonde ale, which are always on tap. The other 13–14 taps rotate regularly.
“What makes us unique is that, over the years, we’ve collected enough tanks and we brew in a small enough size that we can have 18 to 20 of our own beers on tap at any given point,” said Mike Franklin.
Changes in the neighborhood
Since the Franklins moved here, it’s been a solid middle-class neighborhood close to Washington, D.C., but, Mike Franklin said, the commercial industry was “totally run down” along Route 1 in the 1980s. He said there had not been new business in years.
Now the thriving Gateway Arts District has bloomed with new businesses—including another brewery, a meadery, and a distillery.
“The neighborhood has always been an artsy kind of neighborhood, so it hasn’t really been transformed as much as been named,” Franklin said. “There’s always been a strong community arts connection, but it’s really more that it’s been recognized than changing.”
The family neighborhood is reflected in Franklin’s business. One half of the retail area is now a toy store, the general store offers unique items, and Franklin said his customers at the brewpub are mostly families. He said more millennials are moving in, but it is after they have kids and settle down.
“The neighborhood has supported us very well over the years.”