Lettin’ the good times roll
By Amelia Rose Smith
Will Jordan has lived in Williamson County his entire life. As a young boy, he wandered the downtown neighborhood streets of Franklin, looking for adventure. Back then, everyone he would encounter knew him by his first name. Now, with Franklin and Williamson County growing by the day, you may recognize him as the guy behind Kimbro’s or the owner of Mockingbird Theatre or, perhaps, the person behind a camera lens. So, if you have not already, meet the stranger to no one – Will Jordan.
Three words that best describe you.
Independent, determined and a people-person.
What is your profession, and what led you to choose it?
I’m the owner of Kimbro’s, a live music venue and restaurant, which opened in 2005; and Mockingbird Theater at The Factory in Franklin, which opened in 2019. I also own Carpe Diem, a vintage, antiques and record store, which opened in 2012. In addition to the brick-and-mortar businesses, I’m a photographer, freelance writer and manage some properties in downtown Franklin. I’ve always strived to be an independent business owner. When I was too young to drive, I sold newspaper subscriptions door to door to earn the prize of a new “banana-seat” bicycle. I washed dishes and bussed tables at Dotson’s and mowed grass long before I could drive a car. When I finally could drive my rusted-out Buick Electra 225, I would take it to Nashville to work at the Tennessean as a copy boy – a job that seems to have been replaced by computers.
Fast forward years later, and after graduating from Belmont University, I went to work for the Review Appeal and held just about every writing position in the newsroom until I became Managing Editor. When I left there, I worked at the Nashville City Paper and then freelanced for various magazines, at that point, heavily focused on music writing. Interviewing and photographing music artists over the years created friendships, and when Ron Kimbro opened Kimbro’s Pickin’ Parlor in 2005, I wandered over to see what was happening.
Less than two years later, I became a partner in the business, and in 2014 Ron retired and handed me the reins as the sole owner. Kimbro’s has a funky juke joint vibe and has become a local hangout spot. Community guitars hang on the walls, and dueling pianos sit in the back room. There’s a small stage in the dining room, and everyone from locals to Chris Stapleton, John Prine to Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Leon Russell, Wynonna Judd, Kingfish, Alex Marley and Ween have played on it.
Carpe Diem opened next door in 2012, first as a gallery for my photography and with some of the antiques I had enjoyed “picking” over the years. The records took over most of the real estate inside the shotgun shack building, and for a while, it was Franklin’s only record shop.
I opened Mockingbird Theater in The Factory at Franklin in 2019, which has an industrial feel with high ceilings, brick walls and iron trim. It’s a fantastic vibe and one of the best sounding and visual stages in Tennessee, with stadium-esque, elevated seating. It has a speak-easy-styled bar, where some of my photography hangs, and a comfortable courtyard with an outside stage.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Some of my professions are hobbies, but I also love to travel, hike, cook and garden in a small piece of property we have, as well as my greenhouse we built out of old windows and doors. One of my favorite places in the world to go is to our family home in Maine with my wife, Lauren, and two kids, Max and Lucy.
Where is your favorite place to go in
If I have to be honest, when I’m home, I don’t venture too far from the few-block radius I live and work in. My friends often tease me about that. When I do stray, I like to find woods, either in neighboring parks or nature preserves.
What is the one thing you do not go a day without?
I love nature as much as I love music, so there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t enjoy either or both. I also don’t go many days without doing some variation of work.