Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

It has always been customary for town leaders to provide distinguished visitors or citizens being honored by local government with a gift. In the past, the town of Franklin has provided a pen or coffee cup, and the same goes for the county. Now, the town of Franklin will be gifting individuals with a little taste of Franklin, which also supports a growing local business.

“For several years I have been thinking about something from the town of Franklin that we could give to visiting dignitaries, celebrities and anyone who does anything for the Town,” said Franklin Mayor Bob Scott. “I wanted something unique that promoted Franklin and our local businesses.  During BizWeek I had the opportunity to tour Harmony House Foods and I was impressed by what they are doing and how their product is shipped across the country.  When I attend NC League of Municipalities meetings one of the board members brings peanuts to us.  So, when I saw that Harmony House had freeze dried berries I asked John Seaman if he could make up small jars of the four berries that grow in Franklin and Macon County.  Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries with the town logo on it. John liked the idea and had a prototype to me in a week with the town logo on the lid..  We showed it off at the Town Board meeting and everyone liked it.”

The pre-packaged, freeze dried berries are locally grown, and feature the town of Franklin’s logo as well as contact information for Harmony House Foods. On Wednesday, May 24, the town of Franklin gifted the first package to World War II veteran Garland Bolding in honor of his 94th birthday.

“Other towns and groups give away ball point pens, coffee mugs, sticky notes and those type giveaways but I feel we have something that tells our story, is edible, grows locally and promotes the town and a local business,” said Scott. “So it is good for economic development. It shows the town is interested in our local businesses.  Also, by being freeze dried it is something that goes with backpacking and hiking which has become a main attraction to Franklin.  It represents the outdoors we are so proud of.”

Harmony House Foods, Inc. is a family-owned and operated business, owned by husband and wife duo John and Linda Seaman, located in Macon County’s industrial park. Harmony House sells and distributes freeze-dried, dehydrated and camping foods and has built itself into a national brand. The company’s honors include a 2007 Editors’ Choice Award from Backpacker magazine and a 2008 nomination for “Business People of the Year” by the North Carolina District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“We are excited to do this special order and work with the town of Franklin because they have been so open and accommodating to us and this is just one way we can give back to our community to help them in their marketing,” said John Seaman.

Harmony House has been expanding, just recently moving from an 8,500 square-foot facility in the Macon County Business Development Center to a more than 32,000 square-foot location in the Macon County Industrial Park. The company has recently expanded its customer base, moving into Canada for sales.

“We continue to seek new avenues of growth and want to continue doing business here in Macon County,” Seaman. “We want to continue growing and providing more jobs here in our community.”

According to Scott, the gifts will be given out to various people for various reasons. “I see us presenting these to people like the Wounded Warriors, visiting politicians, prospective businesses, representatives of business groups, entertainers,” said Scott. “Anyone who you would normally give a ball point pen or coffee mug.  Making them available for special speakers at civic club meetings.”

Scott noted that the new gifts are just one more way to brand and market Franklin. “We are always looking for ways to get Franklin out there as a good place to live, work and play,” said Scott. “In many ways presenting someone with a sample of all these berries represents Franklin in that way. We are an outdoor town. And what could be more friendly than saying, “glad you are here.  Have a ‘berry’ good time with us.”