Dan and Gwen Perkins are selling Chapman’s Pie Wagon II, a mobile food venue modeled after Franklin’s original Chapman’s Pie Wagon that served hot lunches and slices of homemade pie on the Public Square until it closed in the mid-1940s.
Below is the Perkins’ story. If you are interested in starting a conversation about purchasing not only the business, but also a piece of history, please contact Dan or Gwen here or by calling 615-587-5354. They are active Heritage Foundation members.
Dan and Gwen Perkins know something about running a successful business. Back in Oregon, Gwen worked as a caterer for private business parties, ranging from five people to nearly 1,000. Dan owned and operated a small lumber company in Oregon for 40 years.
In 2010, the pair returned to Gwen’s Tennessee roots to seek another entrepreneurial venture: this time in the form of Chapman’s Pie Wagon II—a downtown Franklin mobile food venue first inspired by a West Coast all-natural concession stand, but modeled after Franklin’s original Chapman’s Pie Wagon.
It took Dan and Gwen nearly a year and a half to open Chapman’s II after thorough research, and adhering to city requirements—not to mention the meticulous detail they put into designing the trolley—but since 2011 the duo has served their made-from-scratch lunches and desserts in the parking lot by Landmark Booksellers on E. Main Street.
For more than 20 years, the Chapman’s mobile concession in downtown Franklin was such a popular spot that there’s still some who remember the original pie wagon.
At Chapman’s II, people order through the window… just like the original, owned by Jim and Effie Chapman. Its trolley-like appearance and candy-cane striped finish of the mobile restaurant also hits close to home for many who know of the old food truck.
“We’ve tried to make Chapman’s as much like the original as we can,” Gwen says. “The history is so compelling to us—and to many of our customers who have eaten with us, and also at the original Chapman’s. You can feel the pride in their voices when they remember the former trolley, the good times had, and the sense of community it created.”
Before opening, Gwen and Dan embraced a book compiled by Heritage Foundation Historian Rick Warwick’s book “Meet Me at Chapman’s Pie Wagon,” which detailed the special sense of community that Jim and Effie Chapman helped create through their business. Gwen says she believes the Chapmans accomplished this through giving their customers a happy, relaxed place to eat and communicate among friends, neighbors and coworkers.
Gwen often talks about the people who now stop by Chapman’s II just to chat, to ask questions about our city, get directions or just enjoy a beautiful day with a homemade lunch.
“We’re in the wagon and can hear people visiting, laughing, reconnecting, doing business. They even help each other taking food to their car,” Gwen says. “Several times someone will note that our garbage is full. But they don’t just tell us, they ask for a bag and they change it out. How’s that for kindness?”
And all of that, Gwen says, goes to show that Chapman’s, once again, has risen to its original place—one of bringing a city together and knitting hearts for a common goal of neighborliness to one another.
“That’s what Chapman’s was for, and is what it is for today.”
The Perkins hoped to create another generation saying “Meet me at Chapman’s!” Allow them continue that receiving the baton for the next heart of Franklin’s community:
WHO: Gwen and Dan Perkins; Heritage Foundation members
WHAT: Chapman’s Pie Wagon II; modeled after Chapman’s Pie Wagon (1922-1946)
WHY THEY ARE SELLING: Gwen and Dan began Chapman’s II as senior citizens, and Dan has a heart condition that is requiring more rest.
“We knew we had a ‘season.’ We love Chapman’s and it is hard to let go but we must. We just so want someone to grasp the wonderful opportunity and business that we have been so fortunate to be a part.”
WHAT CHAPMAN’S HAS MEANT TO THEM: “It’s really hard to pass this on, because it has been our baby. But we know this season is over for us. It’s been fabulous, and the people in Franklin have been so supportive. We’ve made friends for life through Chapman’s.”
WHAT GWEN SEES IN CHAPMAN’S FUTURE: “Chapman’s is poised to grow and we know someone younger will have the energy and heart to make that happen.”
WHAT YOU ARE BUYING: The Chapman’s name, the business, the trolley, supplies, cooking utensils and Gwen’s standard recipes, if so desired.
Gwen is also willing to help the new owners transition and would help up to three months, if desired.