August 30, 2016

Frank & Fran's is changing hands, but
Frank won't be gone for good

By JOY CRIST
UPDATE:  Celebration has been postponed indefinitely

Because of storm surge caused by Tropical Storm Hermine, the celebration planned at Frank & Fran’s, The Fisherman's Friend, has been postponed indefinitely.

The party was to be a combined celebration celebration of Frank and Fran Folb’s retirement, as well as an introduction to the new owners of the tackle shop – Heather and Tim James and Stephanie and Randy Ryals.

The event will be rescheduled at a later date and the whole island will still be invited.




Frank & Fran’s, an iconic Avon tackle shop that’s been luring anglers for nearly 30 years,  will have new owners soon, but Frank Folb, the store’s co-owner who is arguably just as recognized as the shop itself, will still be around from time to time, so the new owners can make the transition as smooth as possible for regular customers.

Two of Frank & Fran’s longstanding employees – Ginger Knight who has been working there 12 years, and Frank and Fran’s daughter, Tammy Tinsley, who has been working at the shop on and off since she was a kid – will also be sticking around. And the two new primary owners, Heather James and Stephanie Ryals, say that the shop's management style, services, friendly atmosphere, location, and even the name will continue to be the same.

“They said, ‘Your name has been synonymous with what this place has been all these years, so we’re definitely keeping it,’” says Frank. “I think they will add their own ideas later on. One of their big passions is diving, so they might incorporate that into the shop at some point, but that’s not something that will happen right away.”

As for Frank and Fran, they plan to retire, and move to a small town close to Rocky Mount and Raleigh.

“I’m 73 years old, and it’s time,” says Frank. “At our age, [moving to Raleigh] puts a lot of major medical options at our disposal, and that’s a big reason... Plus, I really want to ride [around] on a big green tractor.”

Virtually every fisherman who has vacationed in Avon for the past 28 years knows Frank, the “Fisherman’s Friend,” and has frequented the shop for everything from new rods and reels, to a little advice on what to catch and where to go.

And all aspects of the business – from the building to Frank and Fran themselves – have deep ties to the island that have spanned decades and that generate a little nostalgia for virtually all long-time visitors and locals.

Frank’s mother was born in Avon, and his father was a doctor on the island in the 1920s and 1930s. There’s a street named after his father – Doc Folb Lane – in the heart of Buxton, and most of Frank’s family members -- including his parents, grandparents, and cousins - are buried in Buxton as well.

Frank and Fran moved to the island in 1975, and they worked at various jobs before Frank & Fran’s came to fruition.

“I originally had plans of building a motel and restaurant, which did not materialize, Thank God,” says Frank.

The Avon building was initially a local arcade called the “Play Pen,” which had pinball machines and arcade games during the height of the Pac-Man mania era in the early 1980s. It was owned by a man who also operated the theater next door -- which later became Dockside Hatteras and which is now a souvenir store. After it flooded in the mid-1980s, it was sold and turned into a tackle shop in 1986.

Fran began working at the tackle shop, and two years later, she and Frank approached the owner about taking over the reins. They officially opened Frank & Fran’s in 1988, and an iconic fisherman’s destination was born -- with a little initial trepidation about the name itself.

“I did not like the original name,” says Frank, “… But we worked at so many tackle shops, that people knew who we were, and we wanted them to know where we had gone.”

The red drum icon has always been a fixture of Frank and Fran’s too, and although the “Avon World Record Tackle” moniker and related taglines have disappeared, the connection to a record breaking catch remains.

Clearly, Frank & Fran’s has a place in the local fishing history books, and the response to Frank’s departure – a figure that more than one local has referred to as “everyone’s grandpa” – has been mixed.

“A lot of people are sad, but are still glad for Fran and me,” says Frank. “The comments have been from one gamut to the other. For us, the excitement is more than the apprehension now, but the apprehension is still there.”

Frank isn’t completely disappearing from the island anytime soon, however. The couple will keep their 1964 Hatteras Island home, and plan to come down once every two weeks to a month, for about a week at a time.

In addition, Frank will be down for all the major tournaments, holidays, and the arrival of big groups in the coming months – which includes seasoned regulars like the “Blues Brothers,” who visit every year.

Frank is also planning on looking into new business ventures once he is officially retired.

In the meantime, Frank & Fran’s is marking the occasion with a combined celebration of Frank and Fran’s retirement, as well as an introduction to the new owners – Heather and Tim James and Stephanie and Randy Ryals.

“I’ve already started calling [Heather and Stephanie] ‘Fric and Frack,’” says Frank.

The big public “Thank You” that is open to everyone on the island will have plenty of good eats provided by Crazy Johnny’s Bar-B-Que and will be held on Saturday, Sept. 3, from 1 p.m. until the food is gone.

The party will be happening in the parking lot of Frank & Fran’s, although indoor options are being considered if it looks like rain will be in Saturday’s forecast.

The event is a great opportunity to wish Frank and Fran well, and thank them for nearly 30 years of serving as Hatteras Island’s favorite fisherman’s friends and to also meet the new owners who have been busy learning the ropes and meeting the community.

“I want them to succeed, and for Frank & Fran’s to keep going” says Frank. “I don’t want any failure to be an option for this business.”

Happily, with the retention of favorite employees and adherence to the current friendly business structure, it appears that Franks & Fran’s won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, even if Frank is miles away, enjoying a ride on his big green tractor.

And even though folks won’t run into Frank on a daily basis in the not-so-distant future, he’ll still be around.

“I won’t do a retail fishing tackle business again, but we will still be back on the island,” he says, before adding with a smile, “And I will still be the Wal-Mart greeter here on occasion.”


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