On weekends throughout the year, visitors to downtown Franklin can find something special going on at Farm Girl Mercantile.
Vendor markets are planned throughout the year. Often live music and food welcomes guests to the rural-chic boutique. And even if no special events are going on, customers can count on owner Tracy Bohler to make them feel welcome.
“Tracy personifies Hoosier Hospitality because she treats every person who walks into her shop like a friend. She is one shop owner who lets the public use her restroom. She promotes the other stores, has joint events with them, and has fun crafting classes to she and her customers get to know each other better,” said Kenneth Kosky, executive director of Festival County Indiana, the county’s tourism organization.
For being a vocal proponent of downtown Franklin, Bohler has been honored by state tourism officials. She has been named one of 15 recipients of a Hoosier Hospitality Award, given for high levels of service in tourism-related jobs at hotels, restaurants, attractions and other destinations.
The distinction is a special recognition for helping a place she loves so much, Bohler said.
“It was very humbling. I’m very grateful to be doing what I’m doing here in Franklin. I love the shops, I love the people. It was a huge honor,” she said.
The Hoosier Hospitality Award is given out each year by the Indiana Destination Development Corporation, which was formed by the state legislature in 2019 to promote Indiana as a great place for living, visiting, learning, and earning.
In giving out the Hoosier Hospitality Award, the organization wants to honor those who dedicate themselves to excellent customer service and help their communities grow, said Elaine Bedel, Indiana Destination Development Corporation secretary and CEO during the awards ceremony on Oct. 30.
“Hoosier hospitality is at the core of this ceremony,” Bedel said. “We see it and feel it every day in Indiana. In hospitality and tourism, we take great pride in our communities and recognize the importance of going the extra mile and how much it makes a difference.”
Farm Girl Mercantile has been a mainstay in downtown Franklin since 2017, when Bohler opened it in a distinctive red structure just blocks from the courthouse square.
With its variety of clothing, home decor, antiques and more, the store fit perfectly into Franklin’s burgeoning vintage shopping scene.
Over time, Bohler has been an engine driving visitors to the downtown area, working with other businesses to make Franklin a destination. She takes part in special events, such as Shop The Blocks, an evening shopping experience, and the Downtown Franklin Holiday Open House.
She also has planned special festivals and events to appeal to different shoppers. Classes on stamping, stencils and decoupage have been popular with local residents.
When Farm Girl Mercantile hosted its Homesteaders event in August, people flocked to the shop to see local homesteaders give demonstrations of beekeeping, raw wool, raising chickens and growing microgreens.
Bohler’s impact on the downtown area is undeniable, Kosky said. Festival Country Indiana recently hosted a destination expert to assess Franklin. The expert had visited more than 2,500 locations around the world, and he specified Franklin as one of the most beautiful downtowns in the United States, Kosky said.
One of the photos the expert showed was of Farm Girl Mercantile.
“Tracy has a welcoming, attractive asset in the downtown,” said Kosky, who nominated Bohler for the Hoosier Hospitality Award. “And Tracy is a tremendous ambassador, giving out tourism brochures and downtown maps at her store, sending her store customers to the visitor center, and encouraging them to spend their money at the other stores and the local restaurants as well.”
When Kosky called Bohler to congratulate her on receiving the Hoosier Hospitality Award, she was blown away.
“I found out two weeks prior to the ceremony, and I cried,” she said. “I was dumbfounded.”
Farm Girl Mercantile was the only Johnson County business to receive the award this year. Last year, however, four local businesses were recognized with the Hoosier Hospitality Award — Hilton Garden Inn Columbus/Edinburgh, Electric Key Records, Roux-Ga-Roux’s and Toodleydoo Toys.