The Perkins: Offering a Piece of History, Community and Their Heart

Gwen&Dan

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.

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Chairs Named For 41st Annual Heritage Ball in September 2014

Hincheyville Neighbors Represent Past, Present & Future of Black Tie Event

Breathards, web
Brian and Lisa Beathard

Generations of Williamson County residents have made a tradition of supporting the Heritage Ball, the community’s longest-running black tie event. Now, Brian and Lisa Beathard of the Hincheyville neighborhood in downtown Franklin have been named Chairs of the Heritage Ball, and their neighbor Marty Ligon, who launched the initiative 41 years ago, will serve as Honorary Chair.

“Historic preservation is about honoring the past as part of our present and our future,” said Mary Pearce, executive director of the Heritage Foundation of Franklin & Williamson County. “This is a long-standing tradition and a principal fundraiser, so it’s exciting to see a young professional couple as Chairs who want to continue the Heritage Ball legacy that the ones who came before them brought to life.”

Brian Beathard currently serves as a County Commissioner in the 11th district. A sales executive in the transportation industry, he is a native Texan and a graduate of Baylor University. Since moving to Franklin with Lisa and their two children, Payce (9) and Ava (11), the Beathards have jumped headfirst into community service. Brian currently sits on the boards of the Heritage Foundation, Franklin Tomorrow, the Williamson County Education Foundation, the Downtown Neighborhood Association and Carnton Plantation. In addition, he serves on the County Budget Committee and the Parks and Recreation Committee, and is also a member of the Franklin Noon Rotary.

Born and raised in Nashville, Lisa Beathard is an alumnus of Brentwood Academy and Belmont University. A scholarship athlete at Belmont, she has been a Registered Nurse at St. Thomas Hospital for 18 years. She volunteers on a regular basis with Poplar Grove School, where the children attend, and has worked in support of various events for the Heritage Foundation, including the Town & Country Tour of Homes, the Main Street Brew Fest, Pumpkinfest and the Main Street Festival.

“Lisa and I fell in love with Franklin when we first met, and we knew we wanted to raise our family here and be involved with shaping the future of the community,” Brian said. “Now, almost 10 years later, we’re honored to be able to head a talented committee that orchestrates one of the most significant events of the year.”

Marty Ligon
Marty Ligon

Marty Ligon, who also lives in the Hincheyville Historic District, was the leader of a core group of people who conceived and executed the inaugural Heritage Ball 41 years ago. Back then, Carnton Plantation was home to tenant farmers, and had fallen into disrepair. During the frantic renovation in advance of the first Ball, bare wiring and other hazards were discovered, potentially heading off disaster for what has become one of the region’s most popular Civil War tourism destinations.

“Not only were we able to highlight the importance of Carnton and convince the families to allow us to borrow artifacts to decorate the house as it would have been before the Battle of Franklin, but things like Carrie McGavock’s portrait and the dining room table and many other key pieces remain in the home today,” Ligon said. “The Ball was the spark that set in motion a series of events that brings us to where we are now, which no one could have imagined back then.”

Ligon says it required a Herculean effort to pull off the inaugural event. People who were involved back then are some of the familiar faces you still see at the Heritage Ball today – people like Sandy Zeigler, Ann Herbert Floyd, Rod Heller, Danny and Teresa Anderson, and Joe and Betty Willoughby, who were named King and Queen of the Ball last year, and so many more.

“We were inspired by a cause that was important to us, and it’s a thrill to see how far everything has come today,” she said. “Sometimes people have trouble visualizing what something can be, and it’s always been a source of pride that we were able to accomplish our mission. I couldn’t be more delighted to serve as the Honorary Chair, and to share that recognition with everyone else who played a role.”

Since 1967, the not-for-profit Heritage Foundation’s mission has been to protect and preserve the architectural, geographic and cultural heritage of Franklin and Williamson County, and to promote the ongoing economic revitalization of downtown Franklin in the context of historic preservation. To learn more, visit www.historicfranklin.com or contact Torrey Barnhill at tbarnhill@historicfranklin.com.