Franklin put local bakery on map
By Turner Walston
Published in News on November 13, 2005 2:00 AM
E.T. Franklin knew baking, bread and how to reach customers.
No flash. No glitter. Just a simple statement: "This is good bread." He said it honestly and directly to his customers in his company's television commercials.
And that approach and a determination to provide a quality product is what helped Franklin take a small bakery and build it into one of Wayne County's largest and most-recognized businesses. Today, Franklin Baking products are distributed across eastern North Carolina and Tidewater Virginia.
Funeral services were held Saturday for Franklin, who died Thursday at his home on Beech Street in Goldsboro at the age of 91.
He grew up on a farm in Durham County and attended Duke University on a scholarship. An athlete, he was a boxer and won the Dixie Conference championship in his weight class.
After college, Franklin was co-owner of a tire dealership for a time, but later went to work for the Durham Baking Co., first as a salesman, and later as general sales manager.
Eventually, he got the opportunity to become general manager of the Made-Rite Bakery in Goldsboro. Franklin bought the Made-Rite bakery from the Durham Baking Co. in 1945.
In the 1960s, Made-Rite became affiliated with Sunbeam Bread.
"Sunbeam was a national, trademarked name," said Jeff Franklin, one of his four children. "Dad was able to use that to help grow the business. At the time, it was a big gamble."
Franklin said his father was an innovator in the baking industry.
"Dad was one of the first people to go to poly bags instead of cellophane wrap," he said. "When he did that, bread didn't sell, except ours, until everyone else caught up. That became the standard in the industry."
In 1980, Franklin decided to put a brand on variety breads.
"We didn't feel like the Sunbeam girl was a good brand for the whole-grain breads," the younger Franklin said.
Franklin wound up developing his own label, using a likeness of Benjamin Franklin for the company's variety breads.
Jeff said his father took special interest in the manufacturing of the company's breads and other bakery products.
"My dad always loved the production part of the business. He cared about the quality, and making it right."
Sometimes that meant becoming part of the production team, his son said.
And that is part of the reason so many of his employees loved him, he added.
"He stayed in there all the time, elbow to elbow with them," Jeff said.
When Franklin bought Made-Rite Baking Co. in 1945, the business had just two bread-truck routes. At the time of the merger with Flowers, the company had 185 routes and 650 employees.
"We were the last, large, independent commercial bakery in the state," Jeff said.
The elder Franklin retired from the company at the time of the merger, just shy of his 84th birthday.
As always, he was hard at work, right up until the merger, his son said.
"He was a real good father. He always made sure everybody had what they needed, but he worked 12 hours a day," Jeff said. "He had to, to get where he was going."
But when he was done with work for the day, E.T. Franklin headed back to his farm in the Grantham community.
"His favorite hobby was working out on the farm," Jeff said. "That was a big part of his life. I think that was really back to his roots."
Jeff said his dad was particularly close to his grandchildren.
Franklin was married to the late Mozelle Butler Franklin for 60 years.
The couple had four children, Sandra, Tommy, Jeff and Tim.
He also is survived by four grandchildren, T.K. Franklin Jr., Andrew J. Franklin, Grace Martin Franklin and Jeffrey B. Franklin Jr.
Memorials may be made in his honor to First Presbyterian Church, 1101 Ash St., Goldsboro, N.C. 27530 or to the charity of the donor's choice.
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