What I did on my Vacation (Busman's Holiday)


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
In reading the recent thread about Big Box/Small Box I thought of a couple places I spent time the last 2 weeks:
I visited 2 shops in So Florida - couldn't be any different, but I think they each may offer a glimpse into the future for some of us.

Arteriors (formerly Art and Frame Shop) in Boca Raton. About 12,000 sqft. Lots of preframed stuff - some obviously from overseas, some nicley done (in house, maybe?). TONS of accessories - mirrors (mostly imports, some unique stuff), lamps, vases, etc - home decor.
A small (maybe 1500-3000 sqft) of the place is devoted to prints (both open and LE) and framing. Lots of samples from all the expected vendors. Nice place - I got the impression just from the amount of inventory (don't know for sure) that most of the sales come from "other than framing" categories - but framing may carry the profit dollars. They're in the middle of a sizable remodeling project, so it must be going OK. Recently featured in ABN and Furniture Today magazines.

The other place I visited was The Art Warehouse . Had a nice conversation with one of the staff members, so I got a better feel for what they do. HUGE - 40-50,000 sq ft place. Almost exclusively preframed - nicely grouped by style and category - almost 20 small "rooms" to view the art. Had almost a supermarket feel. A sizable framing counter - with the same print framed at just about every frame shop in a 10 mile radius on display for a price comparison. Their claim to fame is cheaper - and volume. Even with all the preframed stuff she says the bulk of sales comes from custom.
What stuck out here is that they do all their own stuff - it's obvious they buy BULK and closeouts for the preframed stuff, and assemble it HERE in the US at a central workshop. Nicely done, too - handwrapped mats, fillets, etc.
They buy smart and in bulk - assembly line-type stuff. Standardized. Efficient. Inexpensive rather than cheap, but good.

Some of the things we talk about here - other services, extras like installs, etc. - don't seem to be part of the equation at these places (I could be wrong). What I find interesting is that neither (from my discussions) seems too worried about what the future holds - both seem optimistic. One is pouring $$ into expansion and renovation while the other is planning for more stores and increased market share.

What are your thoughts on the future????

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MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Nice research paper! Thanks for sharing.

I think their focus (beside custome framing) into the area of decor is a demonstration of satisfying a community need. Even though most custom framing has a "decorative" objective, there is more to decor than custome framing. It sounds to me like they are working for their market, instead of trying to make the market work for them.

This give me something to think about... AFTER I have my morning coffee.

Jim Miller

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
In 1988, when planning my then-new business venture, I visited more than 100 frame shops & art galleries in five states.

What an eye-opening experience that was! I originally intended to visit just a few, but every time I talked with a gallery/frame shop owner, new questions or issues came to mind. The more I visited, the more I learned, so I kept doing it for a whole year.

I think it is very educational to visit similar businesses, which I like to do at every opportunity.

Bob Carter

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
It's great to see other successful businesses in our trade; especially those that add a wrinkle

Too many of us become insulated, never see the other side. Trade shows are helpful, visiting other shops is also helpful

May I offer one suggestion?

As we do go into other shops, do so with the approach of "Let's see what we can learn (steal) from these guys". If you approach these visits to reaffirm the things you think you do better, you will absolutely miss the main event.

If you are more concerned with the quality of their mitres than the breadth of their offerings or the merchandising techniques, you could e beter offstaying at home

I'm with Jim-It is very educational

Now, go get educated and learn something you don't already know

stud d

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I think most framers before owning their own shop have probably only been in a handful of other frame shops. And most of them worked in over half of them. Now when you were in school and did book reports, what did the teacher tell you. Do your research!

Something can be learned from driving by other shops at night, during the day, watching the clerks deal with art, how they design, what they have on the walls...it goes on and on. Go to different cities and see what they go for. If you do a framing show or a vacation, check out someone in the local area. Open the eyes get out and about learn...it is not that hard to go into a shop. This is part of the job, if you don't know about them you are lost. If you don't know them, how do you know they have not scoped out your place?

You will learn more than you can imagine if you keep the personal feelings out of it and approach it as business!


Cliff Wilson

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Before I opened I visited about 3 dozen shops. (which reminds me, I have to look at the notes I took and review them?!?) ANyway, I used to ask; What 3 things would you recommend I do? and What 3 things would you recommend I DON'T do?

Somtimes you get really cool technical tips, sometimes marketing tips, sometimes shop design. I still try to do the same thing when I'm in a new area, but the funny thing is I get a lot more reluctance now that I own a shop than when I was considering one.

I think they feel they are being critiqued versus being instructional. In any case, I almost always coem away with something useful.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Bob's absolutely right (big surprise).

Just "looking around" can tell you alot about a place. On one of these visits I'm a sponge more than a critic - and I learned a good bit.
Can I do some things better, even in my small place? Yes. Did I learn something that made the hour's visit that will make me money in the next year? Absolutely.

BTW I don't always tell them who I am and what I do - sometimes it comes up naturally. Since I'm not usually in my home market it doesn't matter.
I've visited other shops and had others visit oours - all is free and open to share as long as it's 2 ways.