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 →
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 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 →
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
After a Sunday drive through Pennsylvania and Connecticut, we dropped in on Retail Speaksmember, 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
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 →
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
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 →
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 Consultingbut their business demonstrates many examples of his business professionalism and acumen that he teaches.
Pat and Ken Baur of Framing Concepts Gallery located in Chesterton, Indiana.
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.
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.