Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 16, 2012

New Ben Franklin owner very familiar with store

Cindy Taylor started working there in 1974 at age 15

By LORAINE ANDERSON, landerson@record-eagle.com
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TRAVERSE CITY — The Ben Franklin store on Eighth Street literally changed hands on Sept. 1.

The new owner is Cindy Taylor, who started working there in 1974 when she was 15.

Betty Frederixon, owner for 27 years with her late husband John, will work four days a week as one of the store's six employees.

Don't expect dramatic changes in the iconic 4,000-square-foot dime store, which still sports its original red-lettered "5-10 Ben Franklin 5-10" sign.

Taylor has only three changes: a fabric department, zippers and Sunday hours.

"People don't want to see a lot of change with the store," Taylor said. "They love it the way it is. We're big on customer service. We greet people when they come in and try to help everyone. Our staff is like family and we all love the store."

Taylor describes the dime store as "cozy and laid-back." It sells health and beauty aids, stationery, greeting cards, gifts, toys, candy and snacks. It also carries craft and art supplies, sewing notions and knitting yarns, embroidery floss and crochet supplies among countless other things ranging from soap to pencil sharpeners and copper foil.

"We're still one-stop shopping," Taylor said. "We have everything, and if we don't have it, we will order it."

People come in to socialize, too, and it isn't unusual to see customers standing in the aisles talking and catching up with each other.

"You can find things here that you can't find anywhere, yet it never looks junky and is always well organized." said Amy Lyman, an Old Mission customer looking for something last week to fix a broken bathing suit strap. She said she comes because the store is smaller and doesn't overwhelm her.

"That's because Cindy is amazing at set-up," Frederixon said "She doesn't like to see empty pegboard."

Frederixon is happy that Taylor and husband Kelly, who works at Bay Meadows Golf Course, could buy the store.

"She's the perfect choice." Frederixon said. "She deserved to have it. A good share of what we have in the store now are things she thought would do well. She's unbelievable."

Though Frederixon wanted to sell the store, she wasn't ready to quit working. She and her husband bought the store in 1985 from Peter Furman, the original owner. John died last year.

Fredrixon said she decided to sell because ownership responsibilities were more than she wanted to take on at age 74.

"I didn't want to close it, but I knew it needed a new owner who could take it to the next step," she said. "That was my main object. It just needed somebody."

Taylor was interested but couldn't afford to purchase it. That changed when someone she described only as "a really good friend" offered her a low-interest loan after hearing that Frederixon might have to liquidate.

The Ben Franklin store opened in 1955 after Robert Fisher, now 94, constructed the 4,000-square-foot building in 1954 as part of the Eastfield Shopping Center at Eighth and Garfield and leased it to Peter Furman.

Taylor grew up about a 20-minute walk from the store and began hounding Peter Furman for a job even though she'd never been to the store before.

"I wanted a job really bad." she said. "I remember leaning up against the outside wall before he got to work and waiting for Mr. Furman to open."

Furman didn't hire her immediately, but she kept showing up until he did.

"It was just the greatest job ever for a first job," she said. "They trained me in terms of customer service. The way they treated customers and me was wonderful."

She worked there two years until her graduation from Traverse City High School in 1976. She then spent two years as a secretary at a local equity insurance office. One day Furman called and asked her to come back.

"I did and I've been there ever since," she said. "I'm still passionate about it. There's nothing I don't love about it."