Friends and Followers:
We thought it appropriate to begin this New Year with a story, so very true, that dates back to 1913, exactly 100 years ago. For if certain events of that banner year were to be erased from the history books, The Franklin Fountain might never have come into existence.
In the mid-1970s, in their modest twin home on Baltimore Pike in Media, Pennsylvania, Rob and Carole Berley had decided to open a small antiques shop specializing in matted magazine covers and advertisements from the early 20th Century. A few years earlier, the young couple had begun visiting antique shops and shows, exploring a common interest in Americana from previous eras. They stumbled upon a cache of old Saturday Evening Post magazines from the 1910s and 20s being jettisoned from a boys’ club in western Pennsylvania. They bought the grouping, enchanted with the illustration art which graced the covers and contents within. Soon they were discovering more examples of the Golden Age of Illustration, and they began to collect what they could afford.
Early in the Bicentennial year of 1976, they had some exciting news to share: Carole was pregnant. The birth of their soon-to-be Berley boy, Ryan Nicholas, would hasten their impetus to open the antiques shop in their home, as it would allow Carole to take care of their baby while Rob attended medical school in Philadelphia. Their store would be known as The Saturday Evening Experience, an homage to the weekly journal so popular throughout America in the first half of the 20th Century. The shop sign, hand-painted by Carole’s sister Bonnie in the style of prominent Post illustrators Norman Rockwell and J.C. Leyendecker, featured a whimsical bald Rob sitting in a wooden bathtub reading the magazine (presumably as he did every Saturday night). When the paint dried, Carole’s Dad, “Bud,” and Rob hung the sign outside the Berleys’ home storefront in Media.
Around that same time, Rob and Carole were offered an original painting for the December 28, 1912 issue of The Saturday Evening Post done by Joseph Christian Leyendecker, one of their favorite illustrators. It featured one of Leyendecker’s iconic New Year’s babies turning the page on the New Year in a book of resolutions, as a canine companion looks on. The year 1913 was especially meaningful to Carole and Rob, as both of their mothers were born that year: Bella Douglass Sprowls and Amelia Lakstun Berley. The painting was an investment for the young couple that helped give birth to their new business venture and would eventually provide inspiration for their sons’ business nearly thirty years later.
The Berleys lived on Baltimore Pike for eight more years while customers and curiosity-seekers came and went. In 1980 a second child was born, Eric Douglass. Both Ryan and Eric grew up in the living room of “the old house,” as it came to be known, living cheek-by-jowl with the antiques shop, lots of old magazines, the painting, and the realities of a small family business. As the operation evolved and grew, Carole took on more space in a cooperative antiques store in Chadds Ford and closed the Baltimore Pike shop when the Berleys moved their residence. Yet the old magazines would have an interesting way of being recycled back into circulation and a few decades later, The Saturday Evening Post would arrive on their doorstep once again . . .
In 2003, Ryan and Eric were twenty-somethings with college degrees in hand, looking for adventure and a new, meaningful career. The family had purchased an 1898 building on Market Street in Philadelphia a few years prior. The Berley Brothers came up with an idea and before long were planning to open a soda fountain business there. For the name, they looked to Benjamin Franklin, the local Philadelphia icon whose print shop had been located directly across Market Street from the planned soda fountain. Father Rob suggested that the typeface he had used in designing their antiques shop sign might work well for the new business. In an old book, the boys saw a Saturday Evening Post cover featuring a regal soda jerk mixing a drink, illustrated by E.M. Jackson in 1922. This was an exciting breakthrough for the boys in conceptualizing their soda fountain. The lost craft of the soda jerk was to become the focal point of The Franklin Fountain. Another connection was provided when they learned that Benjamin Franklin printed The Pennsylvania Gazette (the historical antecedent of The Saturday Evening Post) begun in 1728 and published nearby in Old City. It all fit together perfectly, as if it were a beautifully concocted phosphate from the golden age of the soda fountain, a beverage whose most important ‘secret ingredient’ may have been the year, 1913.
Resolved to correct mistakes of yesteryear, we promise to uphold the values of our company through friendly service to our customers, creative yet old flavor ideas re-imagined in our kitchens and through storytelling of our personal, local and region’s past. We resolve to stay committed to sourcing in our nearest locales and to using the highest quality ingredients. We’ll scratch tried flavors whose followers were few and promote the interests of neighboring farmers with crops of newly flavored cones. We’ll expand our dairy free offerings throughout the year and begin shipping more products from The Franklin Fountain to our loyal customers. We resolve to promote catering to good young couples becoming engaged and married with fine sundae bars and chocolate favors. We promise to expand our shipped Shane Candies to homes and businesses alike. We’ll promote healthfulness and cleanliness within and stewardship beyond our borders. We’ll advance our candy and ice cream services to neighborhoods and wholesale partners who believe in quality sweets made locally with integrity and the flexible understanding of catering to every chef’s timing and size needs. Benjamin Franklin, at the age of twenty, wrote down these thirteen virtues in order, perhaps, that we may read, recommit, and resolve to uphold in our new year.
- “Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”
- “Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
- “Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”
- “Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.”
- “Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”
- “Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.”
- “Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”
- “Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.”
- “Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”
- “Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.”
- “Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”
- “Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.”
- “Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
At your service,
The Berley Brothers
Ryan and Eric