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Under New Ownership, Franke’s Cafeteria Keeps CultureLock Icon

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In a quiet transaction back in August, Franke’s Cafeteria, a culinary institution in Arkansas, was sold by owner Carolyn Franke to General Manager Abraham Delgado.

Franke explained to Whispers that within a short time, she had lost both her daughter and her husband. Daughter Christen Cazort Franke, an owner and operator of the family restaurant business, died Dec. 4, 2016. She was 37. And William Keliher “Bill” Franke, Carolyn’s husband, died March 12, 2017, at the age of 67.

“I didn’t know about the back end of the house,” Carolyn Franke said. “I didn’t know about the cooking, employee scheduling, buying, so when they died, I asked Abraham if he wanted to buy me out, and he did. But he told me it wouldn’t work without me because I’m the face of Franke’s. So I have a job as long as I want it.”

She’s free to come and go as she wants, Franke said, and doesn’t wake up in the night worrying about the business, “so I’m in good shape.”

The sale included both Franke’s locations, in west Little Rock at 11121 N. Rodney Parham in the Market Place Shopping Center and downtown at 400 Broadway in the Regions Center.

Franke declined to disclose the purchase price.

She assured Whispers that nothing will change at the restaurants.

Franke also shared that a Franke’s Cafeteria will be opening in Conway next month at the old Dixie Café location at 1101 Fendley Drive.

Franke’s Cafeteria will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year, with a celebration in August, Franke said, featuring cake, coffee and a memory book of downtown Little Rock.

The restaurant rates an entry in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, which notes that Franke’s is one of the oldest restaurants in the state. It was opened by C.A. Franke as “a doughnut shop in 1919 on West Capitol Avenue and then a bakery at 111 W. Third St. in 1922. After determining that bakeries would soon spread and start competing with his own, he sold the bakery to Safeway and switched to the cafeteria business. He opened the first Franke’s Cafeteria in 1924 at 115 West Capitol.”

Franke’s was inducted into the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame last year.

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