2010-02-13 / Front Page

Designed with Love

By Kim Garee

Mike Finlaw and Rosann Franks are a husband-wife team who have worked together for years designing and selling Amish furnishings and home decor items and even to help customers re-design entire rooms. They balance both the big and little things to keep their marriage and their business healthy. Photo by Kim Garee Mike Finlaw and Rosann Franks are a husband-wife team who have worked together for years designing and selling Amish furnishings and home decor items and even to help customers re-design entire rooms. They balance both the big and little things to keep their marriage and their business healthy. Photo by Kim Garee A successful marriage is a partnership. A successful business, in which the partners are also married ... a virtual miracle of love that has no choice but to strike a unique balance to see it through not just the day-by-day, but the hourby hour. Several lake area businesses exemplify that balance, through husband and wife teams who all seem to agree on the main ingredient of that dual success: laughter.

To warm all our hearts in the weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, The Beacon will feature just a few of those local romantic/entrepreneurial teams. Here's the third in the series ...

MILLERSPORT - For Mike Finlaw and Rosann Franks at Oak Creations, everything, as a couple and as individuals, boils down to caring.

Even a brief visit to their Millersport store makes three things apparent: they care about their work, they care about their customers, and they care about one another.

The couple recently celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary, and their 15th year in business together selling heirloom furniture and accessories.

"Part of what makes this work is that we're both very driven people," Finlaw said. With a smile, he adds, "If one of us was a lazy screwup, well, it wouldn't be going nearly as well."

There is no typical day for the couple. On Saturdays, they rise early to bake cookies to share with customers in their store. They take orders. Finlaw, who grew up working at his family's lumber business, draws up custom furniture designs and coordinates orders with 83 Amish builders. Franks, formerly an RN, uses the same interpersonal skills that made her a great nurse to help customers choose a simple gift or design an entire room. If there's time, she whips up some lunch in the kitchenette and the couple eats at Finlaw's desk. He travels to pick up orders. They mow the lawn. She consoles a long-time customer who just lost his wife. They design a display for the floor together.

"I think the secret is in the little things," Franks said. "You can't take those for granted. There are a million things we both do every day to keep the business going, but we're constantly acknowledging one another's little things. You have to do that in a marriage and in your work, both."

"The nice thing about working with someone so closely who knows you so well," Finlaw said, "is that even when you're both giving 110 percent, you almost know without saying that there are days you have to pick up the slack for the other."

"I call those fog days," Franks put in.

"She knows when I'm tired and can't push anymore," he continued. And it's that carefully choreographed marital dance that carries over so well into their business.

She does not grocery shop. He does not do the laundry. He is more than capable of waiting on customers, but it's her forte, or, as he says, "her floor." Her management style is confrontational, his is passive. He prefers the city, she the country.

"She's fast-and-crash, and I'm a grinder," Finlaw explained. "At the end of the day, we get the same amount completed."

They both attribute the success of their marriage and business to a strong faith.

The couple was introduced by a mutual friend a quarter of a century ago, and hit it off well enough that Finlaw opted not to propose to another woman he'd been seeing and almost engaged himself to. Being jostled by a concert crowd on their third date, Franks clung to him to keep from being separated. "That was it," he remembers. "I was hooked."

After a long career in the building supply business, Finlaw decided to open Oak Creations in Pickerington, a branch of a store his cousin had started in Michigan. Franks quit her long career in nursing to help him. By the time his cousin got out of the business, Finlaw and Franks had Amish builders meeting their supply need. When the nearby Big Bear store closed in Pickerington, the couple decided to move their business to its current location at 2474 Blacklick-Eastern Road (Ohio 204), in front of Millersport High School.

The new location opened in 2007.

The couple has three children: Andrew, Bryan and Emily. All have helped out with the business in some form over the years, whether it's delivering furniture or, in Emily's case, designing displays before she could even drive a car. Franks feels the flexibility of running their own business together has helped them stay in-tune with family needs.

"We do laugh a lot," Franks adds. "That's important."

For more information about Oak Creations, stop by the store, call 467-2600 or visit www. oakcreationsofmillersport. com

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