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Turning Father’s Day Eve into a holiday


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John Francis wants dads to unite.

Not many national holidays are born because someone wanted to show off his newly renovated garage to his buddies. But that’s how the first Father’s Day Eve celebration came about.

About 30 close male friends of franchise consultant/strategist John Francis gathered in his opulent St. Paul, Minnesota, garage three years ago on the night before Father’s Day to toast the manly art of fatherhood in the ultimate man cave. Just some of the features: Heated garage floors, a three-car length drain to allow winter car and snowmobile washing, a workbench that easily accommodates a fully stocked bar, a wide-screen TV (cable-enhansed), a world-class sound system, and added later, the buildout of a second story with a full bathroom and workout room. The main-floor garage is 1,000 square feet, “a half inch under the max allowed by the city,” he says.

From “a couple of kegs and bags of Doritos,” the celebration has grown to include more than 100 dads, a fundraising component for Movember Foundation and Serving Our Troops, plus a venue change—a local bar. And, a big outpouring—from the men, not the keg—for more bonding events to come.

Fatherhood is near and dear to Francis’s heart. Francis grew up in his father’s business, The Barbers, which became a successful chain bought later by Regis. “I lost my dad at 26,” he says. “I was 29 when my brother died; was married at 32; 36 when I had my first daughter; and 40 for the second.” He may be the oldest dad in his girls’ circle, but he learned to lean on other dads for support and advice.

Francis is right when he contends fathers don’t get the respect mothers do. According to Discover credit cards, kids (or their dads) spent an average of $162 on a Mother’s Day gift, but just $113 for a Father’s Day gift in 2014. Even more brutal is a national survey found that if Mother’s and Father’s days were on the same date, 78 percent of respondents would choose to celebrate with mom. (The reason may be that moms are known for their vivid childbirth reaccountings, loving guidance and guilt trips.)

The excitement around the event has led Francis to consider duplicating it nationwide. To that end he's talking with a franchise attorney about the pros and cons of franchising versus licensing. Franchising would be his choice, Francis says, adding it may be because that's what he knows. But it may be too costly. While the objective is to give away the money raised, he doesn't want to set it up as a nonprofit.

Along with a little help from some talented friends, Francis plans to spend the rest of the year fleshing out the concept, and then in January "start putting dots on the map." All in all, he envisions a community of dads helping dads deal with a variety of issues from parenting to men's health.

"We're still putting wheels on it," he says of his plans. "But I know I'm on to something. It feels right." And, after all, aren't dads known for their sharing their feelings?

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