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May 25, 2013

Tennessee native talks downtown, business growth

CULLMAN — After managing a successful chain of grocery stores, Andy Marshall sold it all and decided to focus on just one restaurant/grocery shop — Puckett’s, in the small Tennessee town of Leiper’s Fork — to make it the coolest place he could possibly imagine.

His hyper-focused approach worked, and before long he had a $200,000-annual business making over $1 million per year. Marshall visited Cullman on Friday to discuss his business approach, and shared his thoughts with Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce members.

For Marshall, he says the only way to truly get a community to invest in a business is for the business to first invest in the community.

“Whatever I did, I told my wife I wanted to be excited about it and enjoy going to work everyday,” he said. “We always cooked our deli food from scratch, so we started with that, and before long we were a restaurant pretending to be a grocery store, and we just kept pushing shelves back to make more and more seating room.”

The restaurant often donates a portion of its profits to charity, and hosts live music on a regular basis, which made it a popular stop for locals and tourists alike.

After a while, the business had grown so much Marshall decided to expand into a larger city: Franklin, Tennessee, approximately nine years ago. Now known across the southeast as one of the premiere downtown destinations, Marshall noted that Franklin had yet to cash in on its downtown potential before Puckett’s moved in.

“It wasn’t that long ago, we were there, and there were still empty store-fronts and for-rent signs,” he said. “There weren’t really any other businesses open at night in Franklin, so I went to the other business owners and asked, ‘Hey, who wants to open up at night with us?’ My thought was to raise the value of my competition, we’ll raise our competition, and we all get better. That’s a great thing for the community and everyone benefits.”

Marshall’s passion spread to other business owners, as well as local government, and before long a downtown streetscaping project launched in addition to huge downtown festivals that brought about unprecedented growth. Franklin now serves as a model for other communities, including Cullman, that business and government officials look to as an example of a thriving downtown in the modern age.

In addition to helping launch Franklin’s downtown renaissance, Marshall’s restaurants also kept gaining steam, and he’s since opened a successful location in downtown Nashville.

The trick, Marshall says, is getting people to buy into the reason you’re operating your business — and making the answer something worthwhile and focused on the greater good.

“Selling the ‘why’ isn’t easy, but if you can, it really allows you to connect on a whole other level,” he said.

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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