Memories Are Made and Relived at 1024 Georgia Rd
When a little girl steps onto the parking lot of 1024 Georgia Road, she is instantly mesmerized by the fun that she always has when coming here. As they walk through the glass foyer, they are walking through 60 years worth of history; they just don’t know it. They are walking into what is now called The Fun Factory, a family entertainment center filled with games and lasting memories located in Franklin, North Carolina. But what they don’t know is that it was a real factory, employing many members of the community in its half century of existence.
According to public land records at the Macon County Courthouse, the building was built in 1955. It is speculated that it took up to a year and a half to build. H.C. Bueck, long time employee in this building, says its first occupant was Burlington, a hosiery plant. Burlington was the largest textile operation in the world at the time and was known for treating its workers well. The company tried to be as fair and honest as possible, and made the employee safety a main concern. The Franklin plant was known for having the prettiest yard of any Burlington plant.
Bueck and Susie Stanley, both former employees at Burlington, sat together recently and reminisced about their time there. More than 50 years after their employment there, they could remember it as if they were still working there. Both were able to recall vivid memories of their supervisor, whom they both held in high regard, never having his hand without a cup of coffee.
Bueck’s journey began when he had just graduated from college and was conducting a safety inspection of the building, which was rare for someone outside the business to do during company policies during that time. This started him on the path to becoming an employee there, where he would stay for 10 years. He discussed how their experience at Burlington in Franklin was probably different from any other plant. “The building was air conditioned and humidity controlled; it was usually hot and sticky in other plants.” He went on to discuss parts of the building, remembering a local man painting the boiler. He said that it was painted like a devil and was the building’s “showpiece.”
Stanley, who worked there many years, recalls that she went five years in a row without missing a day. She remembered the codes of the business saying, “You couldn’t wear jewelry, couldn’t have fingernails long, couldn’t wear pants and you had to be fashionable.” She said she took pride in her work, which included tough jobs. She said she had the hardest job there, describing her task of looping stockings.
Once Burlington left the building, it was occupied by several other textile plants before it was acquired by Drake Enterprises, who serves customers with tax software, and provides retail and other businesses. After the purchase of the building, it sat vacant for a full year. During this time, the space was considered for Drake Support for the tax service. Employees who were included in the search for something to fill the space traveled the country for ideas. Once it was agreed that it would be used as family entertainment center including restaurants and attractions, Drake secured Laticia Raymond to design the future layout of the building.
DeWayne Phillips was selected as the project manager of the transformation and remodeling of the building in 2002. The project to transform it to its finished state began in March 2002 and the opening of the Fun Factory was July 4, 2002. He says that those four months were four months of hard work. “It took an army to complete it,” Phillips said, “All the stars were aligned. It could not be done in four months again.” Phillips said including the acquisition of the building and remodeling the project cost $8 million. When remembering the opening day on July 4, Phillips said that it was a relief, and that he thought the turnout was very good.
Jonathan Drake, long-time employee and current general manager at the Factory, also remembers what it was like on that opening day. He says that it “was nothing short of a mad house. Actually, this large number of customers returned for the entire remainder of that summer. All-in-all, there was a sense of relief from the anticipation of opening day and excitement, for everyone, of a new destination in our small mountain town.”
In the 10 years since opening day, the Fun Factory has employed many people from all ages among the community. It offers hundreds of arcade games, and many other attractions including Laser Tag, Bowling, Go Carts, Bumper Cars and Mini Golf and restaurants like the Boiler Room Steakhouse and the Pizza Factory. The Fun Factory has been awarded Western North Carolina’s award-winning destination for family friendly activity.
Drake, now the longest-serving employee at the Factory, discussed his time at the Factory, and how he went from preparing for the grand opening to serving as attendant, shift leader and now general manger. He says that since his first day, he has been able to direct and train new employees with the guidelines and policies of the business. “I showed dedication to my work, maintained a positive attitude, and strived to provide above-par customer service to every guest.” And as a general manager, he strives to keep this same way of working for his employees.
Bueck feels that what Drake Enterprises did to name the arcade center and the restaurants after the building’s original purpose is “respectful and appropriate.” He believes that what they valued in the building many decades ago is still highlighted in the building today. He says instead of manufacturing textile products, they are “manufacturing fun.” And when asked how long it is expected for the building to last, he said, “It was built to last. With regular maintenance, the building could last forever.”
So as the little girl leaves the building, satisfied with her fun and entertainment, she is still unaware of the history of the building, and the people that have worked there over the years. All she knows is that she is already excited about her next trip, and she knows that The Fun Factory will still be there when she returns.
Tyler Cook is a current employee at the Factory where he has worked for 3 years and has taken the roles of attendant and shift leader.