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Garment Factory Events opens in Johnson County

Writer / Jon Shoulders

Photographer / Ron Wise

In late 2015 Billy and Todd Bemis, brothers and co-owners of Johnson County-based Bemis Group, a real estate, development and construction company, noticed a 1920s-era structure on East Wayne Street in downtown Franklin had been put up for sale. After some research and a few tours, the brothers promptly realized the building would provide the right mix of charm and square footage to launch an event space concept they’d been casually brainstorming about for nearly 15 years.

“For a long time we’d discussed the idea of an event center in Johnson County and we thought this building would be perfect, and such a good location for something like this,” Billy says. “We knew it could work there.”

Nearly two years of extensive renovations followed, and the Bemis brothers partnered with Kwang Casey, owner of Oaken Barrel Brewing Company in Greenwood, to help bring the concept to life.

Having been owned by Greenwood Moving and Storage for 15 years, the building was in need of extensive renovations for transformation into a full-service event facility, including all new windows, plumbing, heating and air, and electrical systems.

“Essentially we got it down to the bare bones and put it back together,” Billy says. “We went through and made the entire building structurally sound – all the flooring and all the old existing window openings had been built in and made smaller over the years so we opened those up. We also tore down the entire west wall and rebuilt it up in brick to match the rest of the building.”

The result is a concept that provides a unique ambiance, with exposed brick and timber beams, in a historic space originally built as – you guessed it – a garment production facility where employees at one point made clothing for the U.S. military during World War II.

The 30,000 total square feet of event space includes two main venues – the Province Room, which seats 250, and the second-level Franklin Room, which seats 500 – as well as the first-floor Garment Factory Lounge. Billy says the facility is able to accommodate all manner of gatherings including weddings, corporate functions, private parties and community events, and he and his co-owners hired classically trained Chef Richard Goss to oversee the facility’s kitchen, which offers full catering packages.

“On a larger scale we also want to do some indoor festivals,” Billy says. “Franklin does a wonderful job during the summer utilizing the courthouse and outside, but in the winter months it’s hard to put together festivals so we want to bring some of that because we can accommodate many people in that kind of setting.”

The Garment Factory Lounge, which seats approximately 100 guests, will be open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the month of May and will host a special Mother’s Day brunch with omelet and carving stations. Billy says the facility is already getting 2018 bookings for weddings and holiday parties.

“I think part of what makes this facility work as an event place is the structure itself, especially when you couple the timber beams and all the charm of a 1920s building with the unique fixtures, upgrades and finishings that we’ve put into the facility,” he says.

Billy adds that the sheer size of the facility, as well as its location downtown, bode well for attracting a diverse clientele.

“Our goal is to offer a lot of the amenities and the space for those that want to enjoy it and not be cramped,” he says. “We’re able to accommodate anything from a small birthday party to a large community event. And we’re excited to be here with the downtown charm of Franklin and everything it has to offer, with other eateries and shops and restaurants.”

Garment Factory Events is located at 101 East Wayne Street in Franklin. For more info and details on amenities and catering, call 317-868-8227 or visit garmentfactoryevents.com.

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