Fans of knitting and Cajun cooking can find their Franklin fix at two newly opened businesses.
The Knitting Otter, a new knitting yarn and supply store at 111 E. Monroe Street in Franklin, opened September 1. A few blocks away, a new Cajun and Creole restaurant, Roux-Ga-Roux’s, opened its kitchen and dining room Sept. 2 inside The Mint Lounge at 40 N. Water St.
The two owners – despite owning two different businesses – say they are excited to bring something new to Franklin.
A hobby turned showcase
Kristi Ott, owner of The Knitting Otter, has been knitting for years, since giving birth to her first son 22 years ago. When her youngest child moved to attend college this year, she had the idea of opening her own knitting and yarn shop, selling supplies, offering classes and creating a community space. for people who also like to knit.
“It’s like therapy, for me…it’s an ever-evolving learning process. And I just want to share that with everyone,” Ott said.
Ott grew up and Franklin later raised his children in the city. This boutique was a need she saw for Franklin, who hasn’t had a local knit store nearby in years, she said.
“It was reiterated by everyone who passed, ‘I’m so glad we have a yarn store,'” Ott said.
The name, “The Knitting Otter”, is a play on Ott’s last name. “Otter” was a nickname her husband, and later their children, received from a teacher while in college at Franklin.
At The Knitting Otter, people can come and buy different colors of yarn, as well as knitting and crochet supplies. Once the shop is more established, Ott wants to run knitting classes for all levels. She would like to teach knitting and crochet for beginners, where clients can learn the basics, as well as classes to learn how to knit items like socks and sweaters.
Ott, and sometimes her husband, run the shop alone for now, without any other employees. Business has been slow, but steady since opening, with more weekend business.
Ott hopes the shop will become a community space, where people can have a good time. It’s her first time owning a business and she’s learning every day, she said.
“I hope people feel able to come in and sit down during the day, even if there’s no class, and they’re bored and need somewhere to go. “Ott said. “I just think it would be great for a group of people to come and sit there during the day.”
A taste of New Orleans in Franklin
Cory O’Sullivan isn’t new to the world of small business, but opening a restaurant in Franklin is a new adventure for him, fulfilling a longtime dream.
O’Sullivan – a lifelong resident of Franklin – achieved one of his earliest goals when he opened Electric Key Records in downtown Franklin a few years ago. With the success of that venture, he moved on to his next dream project: bringing a Cajun restaurant to Franklin.
Roux-Ga-Roux’s serves up a taste of New Orleans with classic Cajun and Creole dishes, all from the kitchen of The Mint on Water Street. An opportunity presented itself earlier this year for O’Sullivan to team up with the owner of The Mint – who is also a childhood friend of his – and pitch the idea for the restaurant.
“He knew about my desire to one day open a Cajun restaurant…just to try to get it started, it felt like a big step,” O’Sullivan said.
Le Roux-Ga-Roux has replaced The Mint’s original menu, while the bar will continue to focus on bourbon and spirits. The Mint’s good dining room is dedicated to the restaurant, which is open for family meals of all ages, while the bar is for those 21 and over. Drinks and food can be ordered at both locations.
Guests can try many classic Cajun dishes, including po’boys, gumbo, jambalaya, blood sausage, crawfish pies, red beans, and rice.
Ever since he was a child, O’Sullivan has been fascinated by New Orleans, its cuisine and its culture. He described Cajun and Creole food as uniquely American.
“It’s the closest thing to rock and roll we have in our American kitchen. (It is) exactly what America is; its culture is coming together to create something brand new,” O’Sullivan said.
The name Roux-Ga-Roux comes from an ancient French and Cajun urban legend of a creature called the roux-ga-roux, or also spelled “rougarou”. He is described in Cajun legend as being similar to a werewolf, with the body of a human and the head of a wolf. O’Sullivan plans to play around with the restaurant’s name a bit by offering specific specials during the full moon. The restaurant menu even says, “always beware of the full moon” at the bottom.
Most of the menu comes straight from New Orleans. Proteins such as catfish, crayfish and different kinds of sausages, such as blood sausage and andouille, are shipped from there.
The dishes on the menu come mostly from what O’Sullivan likes to cook at home, and also what he’s tried on visits to New Orleans. He is also working on adding more vegan and vegetarian options to the menu.
They’re starting small now so they don’t get too overwhelmed, with a few menu items, The Mint’s small food court and a handful of staff, O’Sullivan said.
He has learned a lot about running a restaurant so far, from ordering food to running a kitchen to managing restaurant staff. One of the hardest parts of opening a restaurant is finding the right staff, with fewer people interested in working in the restaurant business.
“That’s probably the hardest part. And I can’t say I blame them. It’s, there’s a bad stigma around it (food service)… they’ve suffered so much from it,” O’Sullivan said.
The goal is to continue to develop the restaurant and eventually exit The Mint. O’Sullivan’s big dream is to find a space to house the restaurant all to himself and have live jazz music. He would like to bring more of the vibrant culture of New Orleans to the streets of Franklin, he said.
“I always thought, I want this here. I want these things to happen here. And that’s kind of what I’m trying to do,” O’Sullivan said. “So hopefully one day we’ll have a live jazz band while you eat your gumbo.”