Fishers of Men

In the Bible, God used many unusual vessels to speak to man, from the handwriting on the wall to the burning bush to a donkey empowered with human speech. Given that remarkable history, it should come as no surprise that God has inspired one family in Grenada, Mississippi, to spread the Gospel worldwide using plastic fishing worms.

Larry ’68 and Rosemary ’68 Franklin are the owners of Bain Manufacturing Company, a business that specializes in the manufacture of artificial fishing lures. Their daughter, Jennifer Franklin ’93, serves as the company’s chief financial officer. Bain Manufacturing produces more than 400 different styles of plastic worms and frogs in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and even scents, all designed to attract not only hungry fish, but also discriminating fishermen.

“The fisherman has to bite first,” Larry Franklin, Bain’s chief executive officer, says, “or the fish never see it.”

Bain Manufacturing makes red worms, blue worms, green worms, multi-colored worms, and worms sprinkled with glitter. The plastic worms come with or without eyes, legs, and tails, and are available in unscented, shrimp, and garlic “fragrances.”

“The UPS man saves us for last in the heat of the summer,” Jennifer Franklin says with a laugh. “Otherwise, by the end of the day, his entire truck smells like garlic.”

Bain Manufacturing was founded by Dewey Bain, Rosemary Franklin’s father. Bain owned a grocery business in Grenada, but in his spare time he enjoyed fishing and making his own lures, crafting them from dyed squirrel hair and other unique materials. Bain’s lures proved the demise of many a bass; in fact, they were so effective that Bain was often swamped with requests for custom lures from local fishermen. The lures remained a hobby for Bain until his teenage son, Dewey Junior, was killed in an automobile accident. The grieving Bain found comfort and a form of therapy in crafting the lures, and began selling them out of his house. Bain eventually left the grocery business to design and manufacture the lures fulltime, and asked his son-in-law, Larry Franklin, to leave his job in furniture sales in Tupelo to join him in the business. Franklin agreed, and Bain Manufacturing began operation in its current location on Grenada’s Main Street in 1976.

“Mr. Bain was the designer and the fisherman,” Larry Franklin says. “I didn’t even know which end of the pole to put the worms on.”

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” — Matthew 4:18-19

Between Bain’s gift for design and Franklin’s business acumen, the business quickly made a splash. The lures were not marketed under the Bain Manufacturing name, but were instead sold to fishing specialty companies who put their own brand name on the lures and sold them through major retailers, including Wal-Mart. Some of the lures were produced using Dewey Bain’s original designs; others were designed by the wholesalers but manufactured in the Grenada plant.

“I would stay up at night writing letters that I sent to people with a worm in the envelope, trying to solicit new business,” Larry Franklin says. “We knew it was important that we produce products for a number of companies. We couldn’t put all our worms in one basket.”

Bain Manufacturing was soon regarded as a company that delivered an excellent product, and more importantly, operated with the highest level of integrity. The business grew quickly, largely due to word of mouth.

Then in 1985, Dewey Bain died after suffering a massive heart attack. “I lost my father-in-law, my business partner, and my best friend all at the same time,” Larry Franklin says.

“Without Mr. Bain, I just wasn’t sure I could go on.” While Franklin was still struggling to come to terms with Dewey Bain’s death, one of Bain Manufacturing’s largest customers approached him with an offer to buy the company.

“It was such an uncertain time. I didn’t know what to do,” Franklin says. “One afternoon, I was sitting at my desk praying about it, and I saw a businessman I knew, Hayes Branscome, walk out of the building across the street. God told me that I needed to ask him for help, so I walked outside and stopped him in the street. I told him about my situation, finishing with, ‘I don’t know what to do. I need your help.’ Hayes asked me some questions, then he called me two hours later and told me he’d set up a meeting for us with the president of a large bank in town. That gentleman asked me, ‘If you turn down the offer and you lose this customer, could you survive?’ I told him yes, it would be difficult, but I could make it. He said, ‘Then don’t sell.’”

Twenty-six years later, Franklin is confident he made the right decision.

“I still tell my wife I need a t-shirt that says, ‘I survived ’85,’” Franklin says with a laugh. “But I know that God came to me at a vulnerable time in my life. He realized my inadequacies and He gave me the help I needed to keep the business going. The greatest joy I’ve had in this business is to realize that I was able to fulfill my father-in-law’s vision. By the grace of God, I have been able to make the business a success and to be considered a person of integrity.

“The day we bought his building, I wrote in my journal, ‘I bought the building at #2 Main Street today because I thought it was God’s will for my life,’” Franklin continues. “Along the way, I’ve made some decisions that might be considered bad business decisions but good ethical decisions. I’ve learned that in the short term you may have to eat peas and cornbread, but in the long run, doing right never returns void.”

Today, the company manufactures between 50 and 70 million artificial worms and frogs every year. Lures produced by Bain Manufacturing are sold by fishing equipment companies like Mr. Twister, Lucky Strike Manufacturing, Norton Lures, Texas Tackle Factory, and V&G Lures, and are available from major retailers including Wal-Mart, Cabela’s, and Bass Pro Shops. Bain Manufacturing lures hit the water in more than 50 countries, including the United States, Canada, Poland, France, and Russia.

Opening a Can of Worms

Bain Manufacturing produces between 50 and 70 million artificial worms and frogs per year – a process that requires more than half a million pounds of liquid plastic. the company produces lures in more than 400 different shapes, three scents, and virtually every color imaginable. if all of the worms produced by Bain Manufacturing in one year were lined up head to tail, they would form a line some 450 miles long – give or take a wiggle.

It was Jennifer Franklin’s idea to turn Bain Manufacturing’s worldwide sales into a worldwide ministry. Jennifer Franklin attended a guest lecture by Frank Harrison, CEO of Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, hosted by the Mississippi College School of Business. Inspired by Harrison’s focus on running a business that was pleasing to God and his description of Coke’s efforts to provide aid in Sudan, she began pondering ways in which Bain Manufacturing could bring glory to God. The answer came to her as she envisioned thousands of people around the world opening bulk shipments of Bain products. Jennifer Franklin realized that along with glittery worms and garlic-scented frogs, every Bain Manufacturing carton shipped out from Grenada could also hold a brief scripture letting the recipient know about the eternal life available through Jesus Christ.

“Today, we’re sharing the Gospel with people across the United States and in more than 50 countries, from right here in Grenada, Mississippi,” Jennifer Franklin says. “It’s just a simple verse that helps them know Him. And even if the person who opens that box already knows the Lord, maybe he or she is having a tough day, and that message will be uplifting to them.”

“It doesn’t matter what profession we’re in,” Larry Franklin adds. “We are all to be fishers of men for Christ.”

That philosophy and the true heart of Bain Manufacturing Company are reflected in a plaque on Larry Franklin’s desk that reads:

The difference between fishing for fish and fishing for men —
You take fish out of a beautiful life unto death. You take men out of death unto a beautiful life.

Comments:

Posted by Gayle McGee Knight on
Larry and Rosie,

What a wonderful testimony! Although I rarely see you, except at reunions, you are still two of my favorite people. Love to both of you! You know Robert Allen is a BIGGG fisherman! :)

Gayle
Posted by Carolyn Boshers Costanza on
Uncle Dewey was my Daddy's best friend and cousin and I loved him and Aunt Mary C and admired them so. Rosemary and Larry, it was wonderful reading this story and seeing what you have accomplished in carrying on Uncle Dewey's dream. Adding Jennifer's spiritual messages just means more to the business as we need more Christian businesses. In Daddy's scrapbook there is an old newspaper article about Uncle Dewey and his bait shop and I remember always shopping at his grocery store as we lived right there.
Posted by Larry Grantham on
Larry and Rosie,
I have kept up with you over the years. I am proud to have known you as students. Thanks for your wonderful witness. Come to NC to see us.
Larry and Dee
Posted by Wayne Durley on
Larry and Rosie,
You have to know that warm spot is still in my heart for you two.
We must get together sometime soon. May God continue to bless
you. Your old friend.
Wayne

P.S. We have close ties now, and we're very proud.
Posted by J C Provine on
What a wonderful story and witness the Franklin family convey to their community. Larry, Rosemary, and Jennifer stand as "Beacons" of light to their world. They are truly Fishers of Men, of Friends, of Purpose.
With the compassion and heart of Jesus, the Franklin's also partner with Grenada Industries, a non-profit sheltered Workshop for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to "pull" lures and assemble their boxes and trays. Their kindness has translated into self-esteem, encouragement, and fiscal reward for some very very special people.
Grenada Industries stands as an ovation of one but as a representative of many.
Posted by Jet Davis on
Great story! It's nice to know that 44 years after you, Mrs. Franklin, inspired me that you are a part of a team that now inspires the world.
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