Author Archives: John Ranes II, CPF, GCF

About John Ranes II, CPF, GCF

Picture framing industry speaker, educator and writer, John and his wife Sarah own The Frame Workshop of Appleton Inc, an award winning custom frame shop and gift boutique in WI. John has conducted seminars around the world since 1981. He was awarded the PPFA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

PPFA Lifetime Achievement Award

Earlier this year at the PPFA Convention held in conjunction with the West Coast Art & Frame Expo in Las Vegas, I was honored to receive their highest award, the PPFA Lifetime Achievement Award.  It is almost impossible to communicate to friends and colleges what a huge honor this is, especially in light of the company that I share in having previously received this award… James Adler (2002), Paul Frederick (2006), Vivian Kistler (2009), Pat & Bill Bradley (2010), Charles Saucier (2012) and Julius Schultz (2013).  These folks are and were visionaries, and major contributors to the growth and professionalism of our industry.

When I returned home, I shared this story with a younger friend with whom I have great respect – his initial response was, “Don’t they give those awards to Dead people?”.  Of course he made me laugh, and although made in jest, sadly, several of the respected names that I listed above have already left us, despite the fact that their legacy and influences surround us today as picture framers.

The PPFA Awards recipients appeared in formal press releases from PPFA/PMA, and were also shared on the industry forums, but the presentation itself was only modestly attended and was sandwiched on the first day of the convention between many other meetings, seminars and activities.  Due to time restraints, and the number of awards, there was no time allocated for an acceptance speech.  In light of the significance of this award, I had actually prepared a few comments and for the record, would like to share those with you now…

John Ranes II, CPF, GCF - PPFA Lifetime Achiement Award

John Ranes II, CPF, GCF – PPFA Lifetime Achievement Award

The undelivered acceptance speech… Continue reading


Road Trip 2014… Home!!!

What a grand journey – We covered 3,400 miles, hit some great back roads and were able to visit many friends and acquaintances within the framing, art and gift industries.  Most importantly, we were able to visit them on their own turf and got to see how their personalities reflected into their own retail business.

In this summer of 2014 we got to see and learn how each of these retailers has kept their business moving forward in these difficult times.  As we all know, since 2007, we have been in the longest running and deepest impacting economic recession since the Great Depression, and yet every one of the retail shops that we visited is not only still in business and surviving, but in fact many are thriving.  All reported a steady increase in sales and profits over the past 5 years.  Many have also expanded or diversified in this time frame. Keep in mind that a number had just opened their doors two to three years prior to the start of this current economic downturn – a most critical time for any new business venture.  So how do they do it?  What sets them apart from the many retail shops that have disappeared from the retail landscape? Continue reading

Road Trip 2014… Back in Ohio!

Our return journey through upstate New York took us into Ohio on I-90 rather than I-80 hence we elected to make a last minute decision and visit one more framer on the Northeast side of Cleveland.  We dropped in on the Framing Goddess, Edith Antl of Art, Etc. located on Murray Hill Road in Cleveland’s Little Italy.  Edie has owned this business for 28 years in one previous location before moving into this quiet and artsy neighborhood.

Sarah sits outside of Art Etc, located in Little Italy, Cleveland, Ohio.

Sarah Ranes sits outside the entrance of Art Etc, located in Little Italy, Cleveland, Ohio.

At first glance her shop appears to be a bit cluttered and “old fashioned” looking, but a closer look reveals that there is more here than first meets the eye.  Edie and I joked during our visit that she is going for the “We’ve been in business for a hundred years look”.  Did I mention that her business has Charm!   Continue reading

Road Trip 2014… Maine

The Fourth of July, gave us a great opportunity to connect with family at our parent’s old homestead on Lake Winnipesaukee, in Center Harbor, New Hampshire.  This is a wonderful part of the country to celebrate Independence Day although rain and storms extended most activities until the 5th.

Before heading home, back to Wisconsin, we elected to travel onto Maine for one additional stop.  One of our old friends moved from Wisconsin to Maine just a year ago, so being this close – we just had to continue our eastward journey.

We concluded our official visits by dropping in on two frames in Maine….one in Portland and another a few miles north in Yarmouth.  Casco Bay Frames & Gallery is a 35-year-old business operated by second generation owners, Tony and Heather Cox.  The business dates back with three previous owners  including Heather’s parents and takes its name from the bay that produces the harbor of Portland. The multi-talented framers that work at Casco Bay Frames are artists each in their own rights, with their work displayed throughout the frame shop.

This traditional multipurpose room at Casco Bay Frames is used for their CMC and fitting area

This traditional multipurpose room at Casco Bay Frames is used for their CMC and fitting area

Continue reading

Road Trip 2014… Massachusetts

After a Sunday drive through Pennsylvania and Connecticut, we dropped in on Retail Speaks member, Ann Foley-Collins of Glee Gifts in Mansfield, (Boston) MA.  Her location in a large regional mall area is very visible and she carries several key lines of gifts that are customer draws.  In business for a number of years she is keenly aware of sourcing strong lines to replace some of the trendy hot lines that may be fading in popularity.  Takeaways – One noteworthy observation is that similar to many other independent retailers we have visited, her success was keenly dependent upon the dedication of a key employee.  Not to mention a good location!

Ann Foley-Collins of Glee Gifts in Mansfield, MA with Sarah Ranes

Ann Foley-Collins of Glee Gifts in Mansfield, MA with Sarah Ranes

We then headed up to visit “The Frame Guy”, aka Harry Gaston of Gaston Framing & Art in Shrewsbury, MA.  This outgoing framer and diligent business owner recently purchased an exisiting frame shop and converted it to his second location.  In an adjacent community that has its own identity, this enables him to share his advertising and marketing benefiting both locations.   Continue reading

Road Trip 2014… Michigan and Ohio!

Before departing Michigan, we took the Ann Arbor road out of Plymouth to this vibrant and beautiful college town on the Huron River to visit Parrish Framing & Art.  The owner, Randy Parrish operates this small shop in the Nickels Arcade right downtown.  This looks just like an Arcade in the UK with the high ceiling, mixture of eclectic shops, old and new and the nice mixture of indoor/outdoor atmosphere.  I selected Randy’s shop as one to visit as he has been quite dedicated to PPFA, our trade association.  To give of your time and effort is no easy task while running a business…. it is especially difficult when you are the owner and only employee of that business – It requires some dedication to the concept of what you give comes back to you in dividends.

We had a great visit with Randy and noted that his business like others we had visited, had moved into a better location within his mall.  It becomes apparent that successful retailers recognize how important location plays into survival and sales.  When visiting Parrish Framing and Art, the first thing one would notice, regardless if you were in the trade or a potential customer is Randy’s focus on Michigan and US maps (many vintage) that he has made part of his shop’s identity.  And I believe that this is a good thing as this type of specialization makes his business stand apart from the competition…

John Ranes examining the maps at Parrish Framing & Art

John Ranes examining the maps at Parrish Framing & Art

When you are the owner, framer, bookkeeper, janitor, there is no question that these many tasks put great burden on you, your time and enthusiasm.   Continue reading

Road Trip 2014… Indiana and Michigan

The first leg of our journey gets us through Milwaukee, Wisconsin and around Chicago, Illinois (listening to the Germany Vs US World Cup match on the radio).  We traveled onto our first stop in Chesterton, Indiana.  Only 255 miles door-to-door, this community was once a small town, miles away from the big city but now definitely lies in the shadow of the industrial area of Chicago.  It is still charming as can be, with a rail line cutting through the center of town and a bustling with a freight train every 20 minutes or so.

This first stop on our journey is the home to Framing Concepts Gallery operated by Ken & Pat Baur.  Ken might be better known for his industry consulting work as KB Consulting but their business demonstrates many examples of his business professionalism and acumen that he teaches.

Ken and Pat Baur of Framing Concepts Gallery

Pat and Ken Baur of Framing Concepts Gallery located in Chesterton, Indiana.

Continue reading

Busman’s Holiday – Road Trip 2014

The term, busman’s holiday stems back to the late 1800’s, where a man who drives a bus for a living goes on a long bus journey on their holiday.  So by definition, it is a holiday in which you spend most of your time doing the same or something very similar to your normal work.

So It should come as no surprise to many picture framers that we do enjoy and have been busted venturing into another frame shop while on holiday – It sort of comes natural within an industry where people honestly love what they do!

So as we head into the last week of June, Sarah and I are heading towards a family gathering in Center Harbor, New Hampshire, but along the way we plan on visiting some old friends and a number of folks in the framing industry, gallery owners and some specialized gift shops.  We’re taking a leisurely journey to New England that provides us an opportunity to connect to some great framers and business people.

2014 Busmans Holiday Road Trip

The journey from Appleton, Wisconsin to New Hampshire will take us to businesses in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine!

Why?  Well… most of us recognize that we are bound to learn some new tidbit of value when visiting another business that we might be able to apply and use in our own shop… but these stops represent a little more on this journey.  As we now enter into the 7th year of a economic downturn, we’ve seen nothing but survivors remaining among these independent businesses that still have their lights on.  And thus I would like to ask them what do they see that contributes to their success and what lessons have they learned in these more difficult times?  Stay tuned… this is going to be a learning experience for us.




I have been involved in the picture framing industry since I opened The Frame Workshop in September of 1978 and started teaching to my fellow colleagues in 1981, but I am just now creating a personal blog that is purely about me sharing my thoughts and observations with my colleagues.  And although personal I should state that it is somewhat B2B in nature as I am creating this to reach out to fellow professionals within the art and picture framing industry.

Although I have had a full blown online website for our retail business since 2001, this is my first attempt at an online blog… something a little more personal to compliment my writings in the trade journals.

As an educator and industry consultant, I have been very fortunate that I have had the opportunity to teach and share within the picture framing industry in many parts of the world from Perth, Australia to Istanbul, Turkey.  I have presented seminars and hands-on workshops in Moscow, Russia as well as Chicago, Illinois.  And it is through this diverse amount of experiences that I do know that we never stop learning.


John Ranes II with Sarah Ranes own and operate The Frame Workshop, a frame shop, gallery and gift boutique in Appleton, Wisconsin

John with Sarah run a retail frame shop, gallery and gift boutique in Appleton, Wisconsin, since 1978.