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Against All Odds

Mark V

Grumbler in Training
I want to start a frame shop in a small town of 5500 people out in the sticks. It's 1.5 hours from the nearest city and the average income is $42,000.00 mostly middle age people. I have all the equipment and will be setting up shop out of my home. I've never had a frame shop before and I have very little capital to live on, but think the word will spread fast. Have any of you done something similar and can give me advise or do you think I'm heading into bankruptcy.
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SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
While the town is small, hopefully there are more people living out in the surrounding areas?

I would just do a bit of research if I were you, before jumping in. It's not necessarily a good or a bad idea to start a new frame shop, it depends on a lot of other things.

Where do your potential customers buy framing right now? Do they have to travel 1.5 hours to that other city to do it? Would they be willing to pay a premium to you, being local, since you are saving them 3 hours of travel? Look up some statistics on how many people need framing in a given year, and see if you can figure out what your average framing sale dollar amount might be. You'll probably get between 2% and maybe 8% of the people in your town coming to you in any given year, and while my average framing order ticket value is $100, other shops have average tickets of $500 or more. Subtracting expenses, can you live on that amount?

CB Art & Framing

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
The success of any specific type of business is not always based on the business category. Just think of restaurants, and how some flourish and many fail.
Business success comes from passion, commitment and marketing.
I say go for it!!! Perhaps start part-time at first.

David Waldmann

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
There's what appears to be a moderately successful frame shop/gallery in our town of 3000. We are also about 1.5 hours from the nearest "city" although there are a few towns of 5-10,000 within 45 minutes.

With the info provided I would guess you could make a go of it. But it takes more than potential, you have to go about it right as well. Too many things to really make a punch list, but top priority is that you need to be a good salesman, because with no sales you have no business. After that you need to operate your business efficiently, including your marketing efforts. This means buying right and selling at the right price.

Bottom line is, if you are reasonably intelligent, passionate about the business and willing to put the effort in, you will probably be able to support yourself. Maybe even do really well. But even if everything is stacked in your favor there are no money back guarantees in business.


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Main question is - are you now or have you ever been a framer? Or have you learned the rudiments of framing from the photography world? Two entirely different worlds, IMHO. If I were you I would take a class, go to Vegas next year - and spend the interim time reading everything on the Grumble and all books and resources the PPFA has to offer. Don't quit your day job. But good luck!


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I would be highly cautious opening with the demographics you're mentioning.

I see framing as a businesses that:

A) Is shrinking rapidly, and the bold and experience will thrive only occasionally.
B) That targeting upper income households helps sustain a decreasing market, which might be few and far between in your area.
C) Its a tough business, in my opinion, to go into slowly and do well.

You have a leg-up if you're the only frame shop in town. And this would also be easier to do at home if there is no established "main street" competition. But you have to ask yourself, is there a reason a frame shop doesn't exist? How are people's custom framing needs being met? Or is custom framing even missed at all, not having a shop there already? Was there one in town decades ago that went out of business?

If someone were to consider entering the market, in general in a busy area, I would tell them to be very cautious. I've seen shops here in my area close. 2 year old shops. 15 year old shops. 20 year old shops. 30 year old shops. I believe over a dozen of them within about 15 minute drive from where I stand over the last 15 years, and we're an area which has about 1,000,000 people in the region. But we also have many big-boxes, so that is competition which has grown.

I would be super-cautious, given what you've mentioned.

Rick Granick

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I think Mar's advice is good. Keep in mind that, even in highly populated areas, custom framing only appeals to a single-digit fraction of the population, in general terms. If your area doesn't have many businesses as potential customers to augment your residential clientele, you may be at a disadvantage, especially at an avaerage income of $42K, which doesn't leave a lot of room for discretionary spending these days. Also, look into availability of materials delivery to your location. You don't want to have to pay shipping charges on 50 lb. boxes of glass, etc.

Not trying to discourage your idea at all, but just advising to brainstorm about all the potential factors, and do good research before commiting and risking your capital.
:cool: Rick


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
You have 5500 people in your town. Divide that by 3 (based on average family size, might be different) and that is actual the potential customer base. That is about 1800 people. I think the average percentage of people ever buying a frame is less than 5% (I can't remember the number, it might be less). But be generous and say 10% will buy a frame. That is 180 people. How much repeat business will you get? Most of my customers don't come more than once a year, on average. I have customer who come every few weeks and customers who come every few years. So again, be generous and say they will come 2x a year.

Where is your repeat business coming from? Are you in an artist town? Is there any industry/corporate life? Tourists?
Will you offer online framing?
Who will deliver to you, supplies, moulding, glass?
Are you an experienced framer?
Do you have a secondary income you can fall back upon?
What other luxury shops does your town offer? Anything home related, furniture, art?

Why do you want to start a frame shop?


I, too am a new framer... home based and outside of town by about 20 minutes. Difference is that my town has a very large and active arts community and a very large number of high income folks and tremendous amount of commercial activity in a general metropolitan area of maybe 150k+ population.
Construction is booming and new money and people are flowing into my area right now.
My little frame operation has been in business for a little over a year and I will say that right now, my big observation is this:
When you're talking to folks about what you do, EVERYBODY has something that comes to mind that they would like to have framed... the trick is getting them to flip the mental switch from TALKING about it to BRINGING it in and then actually DOING it. Since we get zero walk-in business, I'm always in sales/promotion mode when I'm out and about. So far, my conversion rate is pretty meh... :)

This forum is great! Although I don't post much, I'm all ears (and eyes) when the veterans around here lay out the wisdom! Thanks everybody!

MarkV, I wish you all the best in your new endeavor!



CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Given the info you've provided, I'd say don't do it unless you can start it as supplementary income to a main "day job". 5500 people, out in the sticks, hours from the nearest city does not sound like a community that can support a niche business like custom framing. Remember, people buy our services out of discretionary income. Almost nobody "has to have" custom framing. So you need lots of people willing and able to buy it by preference rather than great need. And it doesn't sound like your town has enough people to generate a sustainable client base. But if you can start it in addition to a separate full-time income, then go for it and see if you can work on it to grow slowly and methodically. Good luck!


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I would say proceed with caution, but don't abandon the idea. Don't jump in with both feet.
You can purchase the basic gear and upgrade/add if things are moving along.

Pro framing equipment is not cheap, but it does tend to keep a good resale value if you have to bale out.
Don't buy a lot of raw materials unless you have a firm job for them. Hard to liquidate this kind of thing
mostly because of the logistics of shipping the stuff.

Are there many other framers in the area?

Mark V

Grumbler in Training
Thanks everybody for the comments. I have never been a custom framer, just for myself, but I am very creative and framing looks like a great outlet. I've already bought the equipment I need and am practicing my skill. I know there is a lot to learn about handling art. The town has a small frame shop inside of a bookstore, only about 25 corners on the wall, and everyone I talk to doesn't like them. According to people I've talked to, the town used to have a very successful frame shop, but they had to move out of state for family reasons. I saw on Manta they grossed $134,000.00, so I'm not so sure that is successful since they had a retail spot. There are two galleries in town that have showings every month. There is a custom cabinet builder. It is a tourist area for outdoor recreation, but working from home I can't see getting any of that business, if there is even any business there. I will put my business online. I am pondering doing it part time at first, but can you really give excellent service working only on the weekends? The line of work that I am in would require long hours during the week.

David Waldmann

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
...I am very creative and framing looks like a great outlet.
With rare exceptions (maybe?) the days of frame shops prospering simply because the owner loved the craft are long over. Since the BBs came into the space it has become more and more important to know how to run a business than how to frame.

Not saying that it's easy to learn framing and do it right, but the business end is even more difficult and more important. If you intend this to be your sole/primary means of support you better be prepared to be a business person first and a craftsperson second.

In case it wasn't already mentioned, plan to get to Las Vegas next January for WCAF. Lots of biz and craft related education there, not to mention most major suppliers and great networking opportunities.

Paul Cascio

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Start as a part-time business to go along with a real job. This eliminates most of your risk, especially since you've already got the equipment. It looks like you're into photography too -- why not sell fries with the hamburger?
Our 2-DVD set, "How to Start a Successful Picture Framing Business" is a good, and inexpensive, first step for anyone considering starting a framing business. You can find it at www.pictureframingschool.com.

bruce papier

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Sounds like you may be looking at a small gallery/ contact point for the photography business with framed photos for the tourists with a small framing area for the locals.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Since there are 2 galleries who do showings, I'd recommend contacting one of them which may have excess space and offer to rent a 10' x 15' area and put a counter and velcro walls, and offer frame samples, and maybe come up with a few days that you are there, and other days by appointment. It may be a half-measure, but it might give you exposure you didn't have before, an established location other than your home, and possible connections to frame art for the artists there. The downside though is that this would probably cost you some money in "rent" but 150sf is about as small a retail footprint as I can imagine. I would still be super-sure you want to do this though, as everything I wrote above in my previous post makes me concerned for your success.
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