As you wander down the mountainous streetscape of Dunkeld, your senses cannot help but be drawn to the baby blue façade of a vintage 60s era caravan and the delicious aromas of coffee, pastries and sandwiches wafting from its retro push-out windows.
Meet ‘Little Franklin’, much-loved member of the ‘Franklin and Friends’ family. Little Franklin is the first finished refurbishment of hospitality superstars (and Hamilton locals), Mackinley, Fenella and Tom. Other family members include ‘Frank’, an overhauled horse float, now pizzeria and the original namesake ‘Franklin’… well you will have to wait and see what is instore for Franklin!
Providing customers with an exceptional Southern Grampians (Gariwerd) experience, Franklin and Friends have their sights set on continuing their refurbishments and adding to their brood… wedding bars, smoothie stations, and possibly a permanently placed wine bar!
Excited to see what is in store for this fabulous family, we sat down and had a chat with Mackinley, one of Franklin and Friends’ founding family members.
What or who inspired you to start Franklin and Friends?
Fenella, Tom and myself have been in hospitality for most of our working lives. Nella is very passionate and skilled as a barista, Tom has managed bars and venues, and I am a thoroughbred dishwasher. For Nella and me, our dad has been our biggest influence in food. He was a shearer’s cook, an avid baker, and his dad (our grandfather) owned a small catering business when we were growing up. Collectively our shared interest is in hospitality, and we saw an opportunity to create a group of mobile venues in the Grampians (Gariwerd) that combined our interests and skills. We wanted to cater to both the Dunkeld community specifically and the broader wedding and events market in the region.
Where does the name Franklin and Friends come from?
The name comes from the first van we bought, which is an old Franklin caravan that we haven’t quite got around to refurbishing. It will be one of our first wedding bars. Once we realised that we wanted a little gang, Franklin and Friends felt like the perfect name. Franklin is the original (despite still being in our backyard), and all the newcomers are his friends. All vans will have a spin on the name Franklin, with Little Franklin being our coffee van and Frank’s Pizzeria our horse float.. Frankie’s Bar to come soon we hope!
Tell us about one of the stars of your business… your beautiful vintage caravan. What is its back story?
We bought it off a lovely woman in Geelong who had intended to update the van, which fortunately for us turned out to be an unfinished Covid project on her behalf. The van was purchased by her parents in 1968 (we think) and was used for regular family holidays. I think she was thankful that the van could live on! We were unbelievably lucky (we have come to learn after a few van purchases), that it had no water damage, was still straight and the floorboards looked brand new.
Your business is based in the beautiful town of Dunkeld. What is your connection with Dunkeld?
Having grown up in Hamilton we all shared a fondness for Dunkeld thanks to its proximity to the Grampians (Gariwerd) and little town charm. Fenella and myself spent a lot of time in the pandemic hiking through Grampians (Gariwerd) which probably established a greater sense of connection for us. Becoming the local football coach has fast-tracked Tom’s connection in the community, a role that his grandfather took some years ago too.
You do an incredible job of creating a memorable experience for your customers. What are the core concepts and visions for your business?
The foundation of the business comes from two ideals; firstly, to create memorable experiences for our customers, and secondly to create a lifestyle for ourselves. I think that the notion of customer service speaks for itself – we want to serve high quality produce in the most welcoming environment possible. We want to create our own little community with a strong sense of inclusion and friendship. As it relates to lifestyle, our hope is to create a lifestyle for ourselves that makes us excited about what’s next, and we believe if we do that being our authentic selves then the community and our customers will also want to be a part of that culture.
What is your favourite Franklin and Friends memory to date?
I think our favourite memories would be all the times we thought that we were out of our depth. Whether that was collecting a shoddy caravan in Melbourne and a tire popping on the drive home, when the roof of another one started peeling off, when the power in the van was failing us, or any time we add items to the menu we aren’t prepared for. At the time we might not be able to laugh, but they are certainly the times that tie us all together in retrospect. Aside from those personal notes, it’s naturally memorable when our visions come to reality and we let ourselves look back with pride at our achievements, however big or small.
What future plans do you have for Franklin and Friends? We hear a wine bar might be on the way…
At this stage it feels like we are just going with the wind, whatever keeps us excited about our next project. We would love to open a wine bar, and maybe combine the pizza thing too. We are always looking out for vacant shop fronts in the district in destinations like Halls Gap and Port Fairy, so far, we just haven’t seen one that fits the bill perfectly. So, if anyone is reading this and knows of a tight old space with character, please reach out! In the immediate future at least, we have purchased several vans to be refurbed which will likely be two wedding bars and another coffee/smoothie bar.
‘Franklin and Friends’ is located at 92-94 Parker Street Dunkeld.
Find ‘Little Franklin, the coffee van at this location seven days a week. Open intermittently at the same location, ‘Frank’s Pizzeria’. Serving delicious and fresh wood-fired pizza, Frank’s Pizzeria is open intermittently. Follow Franklin and Friends’ socials for the most up-to-date information on opening times.
All of Franklin and Friends’ vans are available for weddings and events. Send your enquires to email@example.com