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Opening A New Shop

Discussion in 'Picture Framing Business Issues' started by StephC, May 5, 2016.

  1. StephC

    StephC True Grumbler

    My husband and I are seriously considering a major life change and moving "back home" and opening a frame shop in the suburb where we own a home (we relocated for a job but it isn't panning out so we want to move back to our adopted city).

    In the past few years our little inner ring suburb has experience a minor resurgence with the opening of 2 nationally talked about restaurants and that has brought galleries (who don't offer framing) and other boutique type stores like a yarn store, a high end bakery etc. Housing prices are climbing steadily and it's bringing in younger families with disposable income.

    There is a lack of frameshops in that section of the metro area (besides a lone Michaels about 3.5 miles away and a gift shop with a single counter and about 50 frame samples if that but they specialize in local artists) because the area was pretty solidly blue collar but was always wedged between "rich grandparent" type suburbs and we were just waiting for the upswing to the area.

    So there's my argument for location and we're looking into retail space. Please tell me if I'm totally off base location-wise. I'd really love to be in the downtown area for the foot traffic and (mainly) because it's less than a mile from my house so I could bike to work and our kids could walk there after school and do homework in the back before we go home for the evening. I would need this to work for *us* and not just me.

    What is the absolute bare minimum one would need to start?
    Showroom and backroom square footage (I'm planning on primarily framing with a small amount of art from local artists but not gift/tchotchkes that take up a lot of space)?
    Must have pieces of equipment (at least for the first 2-3 months until we save up funds to expand the equipment)? Is renting a CMC reasonable until we can make sure this is a definitely go? I'm also planning on starting with chops and expanding into cutting lengths in our garage or basement later.
    I'm hoping to start with the bare bare bare minimum and avoid needing any loans of any type (we have a wee bit saved up). Essentially the showroom needs to wow the customer but the back end can be put together with duct tape and bubble gum for a while.
    Anything you wish you did differently when you started?
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  2. Andrew Lenz Jr.

    Andrew Lenz Jr. MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    Wall cutter.
    Mounting press.
    Underpinner/V-nailer. (Unless you are having your distributor assemble for you. We're VERY picky, we do our own.)
    Fitting tools.
    Computer for pricing.
    As much as a CMC is nice, it's not a necessity unless you are doing a lot of orders or a high percentage of multi-openings. I'd be tempted to start with a manual cutter and move up to a CMC later. (You can get good used ones on the market, save up.)

    As for store location. There's the old adage: "Location. Location. Location." If you are in the right place, you'll barely need to advertise. If you are in the wrong place, advertising may not be enough. Framing customers don't like to travel far. Keep that in mind. Don't be surprised if some of your friends go to a frame shop a block from their house than driving 10-15 minutes to you. (On the other hand, I've had customers drive 20-30 minutes. It depends, but many are after convenience not quality or value.)

    Ok, well past time for me to head home from work!

  3. CB Art & Framing

    CB Art & Framing SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I would work backwards. Starting with what do I/we need to earn to live on?
    Then research was average nett profit of similar size shop in simlar location.
    I agree with Andrew on equipment, although for me being able to cut frames has always been crucial.
  4. Frances M.

    Frances M. CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2

    We are not in the "downtown" area but my observation is that, as more and more traffic is drawn downtown by the restaurants and other attractions, the parking has become very congested and the chance of anyone getting a space in front of the business they are visiting is small. Framing customers are either lugging something in or lugging something out and the thought of having to walk down the block carrying a framed piece may be enough to send them elsewhere. If you can locate a space with any dedicated parking that would be a plus.
    ArtMechanics and j Paul like this.
  5. Jim Miller

    Jim Miller SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    If your new venture is intended to be a fun, casual business where profit would be beneficial but not necessary, then starting out with the bare minimum and "flying by the seat of your pants" may work out well. A lot of frame shops and art galleries are operated that way with varying degrees of success.

    But if your new venture is intended to provide the primary family income, be careful not to risk precious family resources needlessly. Starting out with the bare minimum may not provide enough profit to sustain the business, let alone grow it fast enough to provide a family income within a reasonable time. Maybe you will learn enough soon enough to become successful, but if that is not assured, can you afford to risk failure?

    You may want to consider making a formal business plan, which involves diligent consideration of the products and services you will offer, demographic study to qualify and quantify your target customers, an ongoing marketing & advertising campaign plan, a study of costs, pricing, and profit potential. You can get considerable information about business planning online, and from your local Chamber of Commerce, and from the lawyer who helps you establish your business entity (necessary), and from the accountant who helps you plan your bookkeeping, accounting, and taxes (also necessary). The United States Small Business Administration may also provide essential help with funding and planning.

    The process of making a formal business plan would provide concrete answers to all of your existing questions, and surely would reveal many more questions that probably would escape you otherwise. Yes, making a business plan is a lot of work - just like running a business. But a thorough plan is the first step toward a successful business, because it enables you to make well-informed, confident decisions.
    Last edited: May 5, 2016
    Artistic Framer and IFGL like this.
  6. StephC

    StephC True Grumbler

    Thanks Andrew, we're trying to pin down the best possible location right now. Because, totally, location could make or break us.

    CB-Thanks for reminding me to work backwards. That's my plan of action for most decisions in life and I just needed that reminder.

    Frances-Great point about parking. The 2 spaces I'm looking at have dedicated parking behind the buildings. I would need to look at how hard/easy it would be to configure the space to have a direct line from their car to the design counter...

    Jim-Excellent points. Ideally, this would support us eventually; in the first few years it would be supplemental income. We've looked at the demographics, market studies and profit potentials already (it helps that I'm married to someone who teaches design research and that encompasses all that jazz surprisingly; the first thing we do is create a client persona and work back from there). I'm currently managing the framing part of the business where we are living now so I've been really studying what is working and what is not working at this location (different clientele but some parts of running a shop are universal-with some of the minor changes I've made we're on the path to increasing sales by over 50% than last year while decreasing costs at the same time). I think I'm at the point where I'm looking at the start up costs to include in our business plan. We'd really like to do without any sort of loan; we have enough to cover rent and overhead for 6 months and are figuring out an estimate in equipment and supplies to plug in to our forming business plan. I'm definitely looking at the resources your listed though. The suburb itself does not have a small business incubator but I have a phone call in to the chamber of commerce and am waiting for a return call and have started looking at county resources. I had no idea about a US one though...

    We've been looking into this semi seriously for about a year, gathering information and I think we're at the point where we want to bite the bullet and do it. We're treading water working for other people and getting nowhere as we've hit the ceiling where we are. It's time to be our own boss (or at least me, the husband is happy "professoring" for a while longer).
  7. CB Art & Framing

    CB Art & Framing SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Regarding location:-
    -If you are selling art, photo frames & gift items, walk by traffic is more important (and parking less).
    -For promoting custom framing, a great sign on busy street/intersection is way more valuable. Framing is not an impulse buy, but showing samples & examples could encourage sales.
    I wouildn't worry too much about parking. You could always meet customers outside front door to help unload.
  8. pwalters

    pwalters SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    I'd be wondering why the two galleries didn't see this as an opportunity to add to their business offering and why that other shop never saw the need to expand it's presence.

    What is the population data within in a 4 mile radius of the location you are considering?
  9. Ylva

    Ylva SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Why would you need to be down town if you plan to only do framing? Walk by traffic might not be all that important and can in fact be distracting. Browsers coming in, with nothing to browse for will take up a lot of your time.

    I was in a very ****ty location for close to 8 years. Bad part of town, not enough parking and difficult to find. I did quite well, just through word of mouth and my website. I became a true destination location. We recently purchased our own building and have plenty of parking now which was very important to me.
    I am a little more visible now, in a better neighborhood although quirky. One side of the street is residential, other side is light industrial/retail. Enough drive by.

    A few years back, I looked at a rental space down town. Beautiful space but no private parking. Lots of walk by traffic, not necessarily buying traffic. Unless you have things you can sell right away, framing is more of a destination. People won't walk by, see a frame shop and think, let's get something framed. Sure, they might think 'oh I have something at home that needs framing' and then they forget about it right away again.

    Make friends with the art gallery owners, ask for their business cards and offer them yours. Maybe frame a sample for them and give it to them.
  10. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    For another opinion, location is very important in any business.

    May I suggest paying $500-1000 more in rent for a great visible location beats any advertising. Visibility is the key. I do know many might disagree and have done well in 'less visible' locations, but the key is to attract new customers and 'drive by visibility' is powerful.

    May I take exception with customers not 'lugging' artwork? I'lluse two examples. The framing counters at M's or HL can easily be 1/4 mile from consumers car. These guys do huge numbers. All of our stores were in regional malls; some stores on 2nd levels. Our sales were 3-4 times nat'l average. The point is great work, great prices and great experiences can easily overcome hurdles where curbside appeal doesn't cure lacking other 'assets'. Point is don't dismiss location purely on price. Visibility is key in my opinion
  11. Jim Miller

    Jim Miller SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Yes, I grew up with the same "Location, location, location" mindset dating back to the college years, Bob. But now, when the discussion is about a framing-only location, you can count me among the "Location, location, location" skeptics.

    For the first 24 of our 28 years, our shops were located in prime strip mall locations. Admittedly, the first location was our best choice at the time (1988 to 2002; 1250 sq. ft.), because we were selling art, gifts, and greeting cards as well as framing - it was more of an art gallery than a frame shop, and the high-visibility was a real benefit and worth the higher cost.

    By the time we moved to our second location (2002 to 2012; 1600 sq. ft.), our revenue from art and other items had been dwindling for a few years, and we thought the move would rejuvenate the gallery business. Nope. Consumers' attentions were turning to mass marketers (craft stores) and internet sellers for the art and other items that formerly produced about half of our store's income. So, our second high-visibility, high-price, full-blown-gallery location became a rather pricey framing-only location by about 2006. That was a tough decade, but fortunately, we were able to develop niche markets for products and services unsuitable for the mass marketers and internet sellers. But for the way our business had evolved, we ended up paying about $1800 more per month than necessary for that prime retail space.

    When the lease was up, we moved around the corner (literally) into a commercial office park (2012 to present; 1450 sq. ft.) less than 1/2 mile off the main drag and totally invisible to passers-by. You know the sort of place - rows of similar multi-unit buildings with shrubs in the front and overhead doors in the back. The square footage of the back room was larger than previous locations, which served our needs better, because we had accumulated all the toys by then. The front room was about 1/4 of the previous gallery location, but the art and other items were long gone; we had to display only framed models and samples.

    So, after a couple of decades, we went from prime retail locations to a more obscure location. The result? Sales dipped a little for a while, nut net profit soared. It turns out that customers don't need to know where the frame shop is until they want to buy framing. Indeed, customers often called to ask where our prime-retail locations were. o_O

    By 2012 the big revenue years were behind us, but we were selling mostly higher-profit products and services, and I had trimmed away all the operating 'fat'. We were enjoying the highest net-profit years ever. Come to think of it, that is probably the feature of our business that most-attracted the buyer last year, and he seems to be doing well.
    Last edited: May 8, 2016
  12. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    HI Jim

    I sorta agree. As you know, we spent huge bucks for fabulous locations and reaped fabulous returns. We both agree those days are behind us

    What i may suggest we look at your example. As you became established as one of the 'best framers', people knew you and found you. Your location became much less a 'visibility asset' and much more a production facility. I remember our good friend William Parker describing his location with a fence topped with concertina wire. Like you, he had established himself as one of the 'best framer, too

    Now, if we look at an absolutely brand spanking new not quite a 'best framer' reputation, they might need a little 'location advantage'. How would you rate their chances if they chose a location like yours primarily because rent was $500-1000 less tan a more visible location?

    Advertise? Spend $1000/month? Depending on market that's not much exposure. A frequent poster of yore said he felt if he called the newspaper and said he was going to burn $1000 in the parking lot he would draw more traffic LOL.

    I think it safe to say $500 more in location and visibility might be a wiser option? If $500 cold get me 100 more cars a day, I'd look at it. I would also look at my neighbors for potential draw, like a Starbucks. Near me is a small strip center with pretty large grocery store but on a pad in the visible corner is a local drive through coffee shop. People are always 6-7 cars deep. Things like make $15-20 a day in more rent attractive

    otherwise, I agree with you LOL
  13. Paul Cascio

    Paul Cascio SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    When it comes to a picture framing business, one could take either position with respect to location. I feel it's important to recognize that framing is unique in that it is a retail business, one that can benefit from the visibility and high traffic count that other retailers crave, but that tend to be expensive. However, it's also something of a manufacturing business -- roughly half of your space may be devoted to production. Manufacturing space is among the least expensive space to rent. This creates a conundrum.

    I agree with Jim Miller that framing is indeed a destination business, so location is not so important. Art and gifts are different -- they tend to need impulse purchases, so foot traffic is important.

    If you're good at marketing, the location of a frame shop is not very important. However, Bob Carter's argument to spend extra on rent makes sense for people who are inexperienced, or simply not good, at marketing. By paying higher rent for a more visible location, and perhaps one in an area of more upscale demographics, your signage becomes the hub of your marketing. The downside is that rent is a fixed (and heartless) expense that can't be modulated.

    Either choice comes with risk. In fact, starting any business comes with risk, but then again, so does working for someone else. Knowing the risks, and knowing keys to success, helps reduce risk and increases your likelihood of success.
  14. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    I agree with both Paul and Jim; the differences are marginal.

    So, here might be an easy exercise. Look at three locations: one based on low rent, one based on average rent, one on $500 more than average. Then determine what you think now would be a reasonable ad budget and set up your Pro Forma. Add 100 percent for lesser location for the first year, what you mentally budgeted for average location and 50 percent less for more visible. Others may offer more current percentages but lets assume 5 percent. Then set projected Sales Levels considering each location should produce varying amount of Sales. In essence if you budget 5 percent and you project $10000/mon Sales, then that's $500. I have no idea what average shop does today. Paul can probably provide some current numbers

    Paul is quite correct that rent is fixed; Sales are not. As Sales go up, a very safe assumption, then the ratio goes down. All expenses are ratios; anytime you can lower your ratio, it's a good thing. Gross Profit Dollars pay the the bills

    So, do your math. I'll use a hypothetical. Lets assume $10000/month in Sales and rent is $1000 for a 10% expense (use your own numbers, these are easy math). Now, lets assume you do $11000, take your CoG out, say 30% and that $300. That leaves +$700 in Gross Profit Dollars. Factoring that the other expenses didn't go up, why should they, that hypothetical $700 drops to the bottom line. Your credit card expense may go up $20, but your payroll wont, nor your utliities nor phone nor insurance etc. Then suppose you hit $12000, $13000. Do the math.

    For me the key is which expense might drive sales the most? Most framers suggest the single biggest problem is attracting new customers, agreed?

    Here's where I might softly disagree wth Paul. I have counseled a lot of framers over the years and in my opinion fatalaties usually center around lousy locations, poor buying, poor pricing and poor selling skills. The more of those you can cure, the better chances of success. The lease with 4 yrs left on a lousy location is the hardest to cure. While framing is a destination, what is a good way for 'new' client to find that 'destination'? Call me a 'visibility' guy.

    Please understand I am not suggesting differences in rent of 1000's of dollars, but maybe a difference of $500-1000. I can't tell you how many small biz owners try and 'save' money on rent. Besides Location, Location, Location there is another of those adages that says You Have to Spend Money to Make Money

    So, you have a couple of differing opinions; find the one that works best for you
  15. CB Art & Framing

    CB Art & Framing SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    This is why online retailing, if you have the inclination and the know-how (I don't, by the way) can be so appealing.
    Rent in negligible.
    You can control marketing costs on the fly, within minutes.
  16. hangupsgallery

    hangupsgallery MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    Years ago, we had a "downtown" location. Spent many days scoping out the traffic, counting heads, watching the flow & such before committing. We opened with great anticipation but soon realized that all that downtown office traffic was just the same people day after day. All going to lunch, etc, walking by our shop but really not in the buying mode. It soon became apparent that our store in the suburbs was doing much better, even without the "walk-by" traffic. People needing framing came to our store after work or at other than work hours.

    We also had a store in a high end Mall. Lots of foot traffic seemed to justify the high rent. Worked for years but the "shop-til-you-drop", hang out in the mall fad faded with the changing economy and the declining art, print, and poster sales.

    Moved to our current location 15 years ago, focus is on custom framing. Strip center type mall, drive up parking at the door. Wish we would have done this 36 years ago. Gross sales quite a bit lower, but net profits are much higher.

    Lessons learned the hard way.....just passing it on.
    JWB9999999 likes this.
  17. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    When you moved to your current location 15 years ago, what made you select that location? Was price the most critical element. Did you look at others a little higher or lower rent for comparison? Would you choose the same variables if you were brand new in the biz?

    Been out of the leasing market awhile, so trying to understand what might be wisest criteria.

  18. Cliff Wilson

    Cliff Wilson SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Count me in as a location guy. But, it's not just drive-by, or parking, or demographics, everything matters. Is it a route to and from key employment areas? Is it a place with frequent "boutique shopping" visitors?

    I think a visible sign is the number two comment from new customers. (Found your website is number one)
    Many of my customers stop here versus one of the other frame shops because it's "on their way" to or from work.

    CONVENIENCE is the key thing most customers seem to be looking for.

    Don't misunderstand me, like Jim, I've established a word-of-mouth business that brings people from all over and location probably has little to do with that business. But, the new customer NOT from a previous customer referral is very much about location. The non-location customer took YEARS to develop.

    Depending on your town or city, downtown "may" not be ideal. I've seen downtowns that are very convenient and in some towns that's the place to be or you're not anywhere, but others are the opposite. I know a shop in a "downtown" that is a very busy tourist area, and they are always fretting and worrying about how to "get the locals" in, because the locals (those who probably do more framing) avoid the congestion of downtown.

    I think local infrastructure and conditions (roads, demographics, retail environments) all play a huge part and are the critical decision points. Two towns away and what I'd be looking for is VERY different than what I'm looking for where I am.

    I saw a franchise shop located in a "great" location by all the statistics fail, IMO, primarily because they failed to take into account the traffic patterns to and from work in that area. They were in a shopping center with a large market, but not in the to-and-from-work area.
    Carmichael and FramerInTraining like this.
  19. Cliff Wilson

    Cliff Wilson SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    As an example, if you are opening a coffee shop, you HAVE to be be on the side of the street that people are driving TO work. People will avoid crossing the street if they can.

    Again, everything is related ...
    If you locate in a to-and-from work location, you better be open well before and well after work on a regular basis. If you're in a downtown location, or a more traditional employment location, you better expect business being done during lunch hour.

    Had one customer that said it took her a long time to "get in" to pickup her frame, because she hated turning left at the light at the bottom of the hill. Well, she came in, but how do I know that some others might have gone where they thought it was easier?

    Convenience and ease that's what's important.
  20. Larry Peterson

    Larry Peterson PFG, Picture Framing God


    Close to me is a large KMart and other stores in the same center. In the KMart's lot is a MickyD's and across the street are other restaurants and stores. All are busy. With one exception.

    On the north side of the Kmart lot is a street that TBones the street in front of the KMart. On one corner is the MickyD's (in the KMart lot) and on the other corner is a small restaurant that has had 3 or restaurants close up in the last few years. The reason; traffic and parking. It only has parking space for about 5 cars and entering the lot is difficult. There is a lot of south bound traffic (the side that the restaurant is on). If you are coming from the north it is very difficult to cross over into the lot. There is a lot of traffic turning at the corner so traffic from the side street also has a hard time getting into the lot. Just doesn't work. And the people keep opening up and closing, yada, yada, yada.

    I liked one of the restaurants that was in there but would always find reasons to go elsewhere because of the traffic and parking.

    I'm sure another restaurant will fail in there soon. Open, close, repeat.
  21. StephC

    StephC True Grumbler

    Thanks for all the location advice. It's all awesome.

    Definitely things to think about. I think I can nix the strip mall location because it's set off away from the street (forgotten about) and the other stores in the mall are things like a gun range, smoke shop and Family Dollar so the people that would drive past aren't my intended clientele. I would be better off in the "downtown" area (used to be the downtown when we were a separate city, before the metro area crept in and surrounded my little town-it's more of a neighborhood business "clump" now). The exact location I have my eye on is on the corner of the main street and busier county road/way to get to the highway, it would get foot traffic (I do intend on offering a small spattering of art and tchotchkes to draw passerbys in), has public parking directly behind it in addition to on street parking, AND is situated on the right side of the road for those coming to the area via the freeway (yet is super easy to turn in to from the opposite direction because I used to frequent the hardware store that uses the same back parking lot all the time when we lived in town).

    I think we're going to rent the house out for another year and slowly buy the remaining equipment we need over that year and then next summer, we'd just have to lease a place and finish advertising (we'll start building social media and getting our name out before we even have a location). If we remain close enough to home, half our basement is unfinished and would be a good wood shop so I can rent a smaller place and essentially just cut mats and fit between customers and build the frames when I get home. 2 places I worked at had off site shops which was nice because the showroom stayed tidier but I didn't like that the owner was transporting art all over timbuktu. I want to keep the art at the shop while keeping my square footage as low as possible.

    Any other advice? Anything you did that turned out to just be a total waste of time? Anything you wished you had done sooner?
  22. Larry Peterson

    Larry Peterson PFG, Picture Framing God

    And for a contrary (sortof) opinion.

    If you had my shop's address and tried to find me, it would be very difficult. Since I am online only, I don't have to deal with those pesky physical customers. I have a 2500 sqft shop buried in an old industrial building and don't have a direct outside entrance. You have to crawl through the bowels of the building to get to me.

    Advantages: no physical customers bothering me. I don't even get mail or deliveries (except freight) there. UPS, FedEx and mail I get at home. The occasional UPS or FedEx guys that try to find me have trouble and have to ask at the carpet store in the front. When I get freight I make sure the driver calls me before he gets to the loading dock. And the rent is cheap; real cheap. And my landlord must like me because he hasn't raised my rent in the 10 years I've been there.

    So if you are looking to do your work offsite and keep your expensive retail space small, check out old industrial and manufacturing buildings for cheap shop space.
    Carmichael and CB Art & Framing like this.
  23. hangupsgallery

    hangupsgallery MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    When we were in the mall, we notice that customers would come specifically to our shop, order framing, then return, pick it up and leave. We were a destination shop. Asked my self.....why are we paying these enormous rents? Then we looked at our customer demographics and specifically, zip codes. We then sought out a location more central to these two zip codes. We are right on the border between the two. The zip code at the mall was actually about 5th on our list. (number of customers with that zip). We got 3 times the space for half the rent. We have since downsized to a third of that space and focus on framing only.

    If I was just starting out, I would do everything in my power to buy a building. Biggest mistake a made. However, who knew that the market would change, and demographics change. We have been able to flex with the times over the years. The other thing is, we really backed into the framing business. Started out a woodworking shop, opened a gift store, started carrying posters, ready made frames. Introduced chops and custom framing....and the rest is history.
  24. David Waldmann

    David Waldmann SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    No, he doesn't like you. He likes your money.

    We are just starting into the (residential) rental business, and a realtor we've known and dealt with for 20+ years strongly recommends setting a fair market value rental rate, and never raise it as long as you have the same tenant. When you consider how much it costs to renew a property (probably not applicable in your situation), and more importantly, how much it costs for it to sit empty, maintaining 100% occupancy rate as long as you can is probably the most important aspect of the rental biz.
    FramerInTraining likes this.
  25. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    last suggestion because I have little sense of today's marketplace.

    you mentioned a little artwork. May I suggest you consider something unique and fun. First, it might stop traffic witH 'Oh, look' reaction. And stay away from art they might find elsewhere easily? Rest assuredyour prices will be high and that first impression is lasting.

    Here might be a 'unique' application: we did a ton of sports/memorabilia. If sports might be important, fill up window it jerseys of local teams for examples. I can't tell you how often people would say 'i didn't know where to go'. The key is to give them a reason to come in. The rest is conversation. I think in today's market the indie shop is in competition with full page ads and name recognition. A more visible location might be an advantage. Depends on your goal. I still have a great relationship with an 'at home' framer. It works perfectly for her. Different strokes

    Hey HU we found just the opposite. Customers would walk past, see something interesting, might come in or might just remember us for future needs. We became a destination location after 2nd purchase. We paid those rents because of the huge attraction of clients buying so much more than framing. Slowly, those other categories were destroyed by new and different competitors and consumer habits. About 60% of our biz was framing and we felt the other 40% contributed to the framing counter more than anything else. Our framing depts did about 2.5x the Natl Average. But it worked for us for 25 yrs but wouldn't do it again. All about understanding current markets and trends. Different strokes

    Seems today the common thread appears to be smaller shops where the goal is a mix of a comfortable income, work environment and self-employment. Good for them!
    Jim Miller likes this.
  26. bruce papier

    bruce papier MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    Our first store was in a strip mall which happened to be in a section of town that was the hot suburban area from 1970 - maybe 2005. We got there in 1984. I think we benefited greatly because the residential turnover was fantastic. The locals were up and comers who moved frequently. The same house would have three owners in ten years. Each new owner needed new art and, there we were, right in the neighborhood. The Great Recession ended that. We closed that store in 2010.

    We have been in our second store since 1991. It's in a strip mall on a main street. We get a ton of drive by, but the commercial sales are saving us.
  27. Jim Miller

    Jim Miller SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    All the information here is good and useful.

    Yes, there is benefit to drive-by visibility, so long as the drivers-by are paying attention. Trouble is, they don't. During the 24 years that our 18 ft. long, brightly illuminated logo was clearly visible from the street, new customers routinely said they found us in the Yellow Pages (pre-2000) or on the internet, or by personal referral. And many walk-ins, strolling the sidewalk after buying ice cream a few doors down the way, asked if our store was new. After a decade in the same high-rent, high-visibility space, that sort of comment makes it clear that consumers have very selective vision en-route, when it comes to the multitude of signs and stores all around them.

    Yes, if the cost difference between a high-visibility prime retail location and an off-street location is about $500/month as Bob suggests, the better location probably would be worth it. However, in my case the difference was about $1800/month. For that much difference, I could buy more than enough advertising to justify the savings in location cost.

    Consumer buying habits are still changing. In my upscale/middle-class suburban location, traditional advertising (newspapers, direct mail, ad-packs, Yellow Pages, etc.) is inconsistent at best, and often almost worthless.

    In my limited experience, a great website (I never achieved that goal, but the one I had worked quite well anyway) and strong social media participation (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.) are the keys to success in a small-independent retail framing shop, and can produce more revenue at much lower cost than all of the other advertising/marketing/promotional options available. I wasn't an expert social media wonk by any stretch of the imagination, but again, what I did worked well.

    I'm absolutely sure that if I had spent all of the $1800 monthly difference on internet ans social media promotions, my business would have been much better than in any high-visibility location, which would generally be ignored by the drive-by public.

    Just one man's opinion...
  28. Gilder

    Gilder MGF, Master Grumble Framer

    100% agree.
    FramerInTraining and Jim Miller like this.
  29. Bob Carter

    Bob Carter SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    Great points, Jim. And you certainly might be accurate in your assessment of rental differences. Been awhile since I've been in a 'leasing' situation.

    May I suggest that as you noted you were unable to accomplish your goal of great website and social marketing. You were one the best minds I met in the biz and yet you were unable to crack 'that code'. Most others, including me, probably are not even as good LOL

    My new enterprise is 100% ecommerce and that challenge is huge. I have spent a ton o' money on horrible websites and ineffectual promotions. I did enlist my son and while he is teaching this ol' dog new tricks. But, to get any really good 'location' for browsers is much, much harder than a lease. May I suggest that if you are over 50, seek counsel and opinion of peoplw at least half your age. We dinosaurs are no longer a primary target audience, though I'll bet primary customers for too many framers LOL

    So, here is my advice to a newbie, find 5 locations, look at rents v potential traffic. If in Jims scenario the difference between a 'hidden' location and a medium visibility is in fact $1800 or more, you're in for an uphill struggle. If the difference between a superior location and a hidden location is $1800, the possibly somewhere in between is an option worth considering

    Here might be a wise option: reach out to owners that are 3yrs or less in biz and perhaps that might provide some useable insight.

    Some of these opinions are from long established framers that started in 'better' locations

    Since we do not know your market, it might be hard to determine what impact either location or web presence may yield. Ask 4 or 5 friends to write down every framer that they presently might know about or have seen. Then go to web and Google picture framer your town. See how many of those appeal to your friends and what might attract them. Keep in mind youare looking for a 'first time' connection

    Point is I don't know and would always factor Jim's counsel, but I would never let money get in the way of a sound business decision be it equipment, personnel, training or location. Perhaps a combination of a 'better' location thn moderate and a 'better' ecommerce presence might just be the ticket. Do the math and due diligence

    Personal note: at one trade show My schedule and Jim's kept conflicting, but I knew the staff member we took to show and I could learn alot from Jim. He graciously found time to give us a private session and every one of us felt it was the best money spent. The point is paying a little extra can offer great benefits

    like Jim, just another opinion
    Last edited: May 14, 2016
    Jim Miller likes this.
  30. Jim Miller

    Jim Miller SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    And here's another thing to consider...

    Desirable customer accommodations, such as easy access/regress and convenient parking, are often attributed to prime (read: high-visibility, high-cost) retail locations. That would be good, but it doesn't always work out that way.

    In all three of the prime locations that my stores once occupied, customer access required turning from a main thoroughfare with very heavy traffic and navigating a large, busy parking lot for some considerable distance past the large, crowded anchor stores (usually national chains), since my little stores were in the smaller spaces nearer the ends of the strip. Regress required driving back through the busy parking lot and waiting in a long line of cars for the traffic light to change.

    And in all of these fancy retail strip malls, the parking-lot islands of landscaping, mulch, and brick-lined borders seemed to be more important than customer parking. Yes, the landlord allowed us to mark a few spaces nearest our stores with "Reserved for ARTFRAME Customers" signs, but of course nobody paid attention to them. Our customers had to walk at least twenty yards from the nearest parking spaces when those were available, which was seldom. Otherwise, the walk could be up to a quarter-mile. Who calls that convenient?

    In the current business-park location, customers can turn into the driveway unimpeded, since traffic is much thinner, less than 1/4 mile from the main drag on that back-street, and park ten steps (yes, I have counted them) from the dedicated spaces always available at the front door of our unit. And we have good curb appeal, since our shrubbery is better-looking than in the prime locations.

    Several of our long-time customers have commented that they like the back-street location better than our previous, high-traffic locations. And new customers have no trouble finding us, since they can be effortlessly directed straight to our door by Google, MapQuest, and every GPS system known to mankind. You probably have them in your pocket or purse right now, and you know how to use them.
    Last edited: May 15, 2016
  31. Jim Miller

    Jim Miller SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God

    This is very good advice. You can't beat the real-world preferences of consumers.

    Again, Bob's advice is spot-on.
  32. John Ranes II CPF GCF

    John Ranes II CPF GCF SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer

    Then do it!

    Treat it casually if this is all you want, or take it seriously and make a big move. Don't play with this concept "semi seriously" any longer - go one way or the other. Would you believe that in 2009 we toyed with moving out of our 31 year old location in the middle of a recession? Doubling our size and signing a 10 year lease - SCARY. Guess what? Before you blink, you will find us looking at coming up to our 7th year in the new location. Wow...where did the time go?

    Life is short - examine the options well, research the information carefully, bounce your ideas off of other professionals and then make the move!

    This is one of the keys to location with respect to our core business of custom framing. You need to be visible enough so that when the "Need is Realized", then you become first in the consumers mind, due to repetitive marketing of your name, including the visibility of your Signage and Location and/or marketing/advertising. As CB stated above, "having a great sign on a busy street trumps walk by traffic" - I agree!

    Agreed... Custom Framing is DESTINATION BUSINESS!, and to your point since some of the real estate within our shops is allocated to mini-manufacturing / production, thus the cost of that space has got to be realistic to the projected income. This is where StephC needs to crunch the numbers. I would recommend looking at their best found location and project out sales for 3-5 years and examine "What will my rent/mortgage be as a percentage of sales if we don't grow at all and are running at the bottom end of our 5 year projection?" If you can still stay in business having looked at that question, then make a move towards a better location.

    Paul is aware that there are still many over-priced properties where the landlords are simply trying to make a fortune quickly. But at the same time, there are also some reasonably priced properties, which give some visibility, traffic and parking - the key ingredients that several folks here have identified.

    Cliff's location meets those requirements of a GREAT location...Parking, Signage, Traffic along a moderate route! This means that when people discover that they need custom framing, they may remember his location because they saw his sign many times - He is located in a strip mall location, and when the price is right....and the tenant mix is good... and tenants are stable, then I believe this is still one of the best locations for a custom frame shop.

    Keep in mind as you examine location, that the customer who all of a sudden decides that they need custom framing will often go to a Big Box outlet - they have no idea that you exist. They are educated, and yet they went this route not because they do such an awesome job of custom framing, but because they are visible! :D So if visibility can be obtained at a reasonable price, I would seriously examine that space.

    Last edited: May 15, 2016
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  33. Larry Peterson

    Larry Peterson PFG, Picture Framing God

    It happened again. A new restaurant opened in that spot and closed within a month. I didn't even get a chance to try it.

    I'm sure another restaurant will fail in there soon. Open, close, repeat.
  34. dominoguru2

    dominoguru2 True Grumbler

    My two cents

    Make sure you really want to go in the framing business as many of my local competitors are out of business. Our business requires people with disposable income and willing to spend $100 on a frame.
    Do a cost analysis of breakeven point. How many frames you have to sell to break even. Foot traffic is very important if in retail location however price per square foot is expensive. For us, we pay a premium for location however with small sq footage.

    For lease, I would do 1-3 year lease or less the better if it isn't dramatic increase in rent. Just as a precaution. Good luck.
  35. Kirstie

    Kirstie PFG, Picture Framing God

    We went to a new Napa Valley restaurant for brunch today. I used Yelp and then looked at the website to examine not only the menu, but parking and availability of pleasant outdoor seating. I then used Open Table to book. Apple GPS took us to the location, which was a bit off the main street. The large sign directed us to valet parking. Very easy, convenient, relaxing, and delicious. My point is that we did not find this business by strolling or driving by. A combination of good online marketing drew us in.

    Note that we started on the web. The location mattered because we were going somewhere nearby afterwards. Parking mattered. Knowing what the inside of the business looked like before going there mattered. The product being offered mattered. All this research happened before we left the house this morning.

    This is how important your website and online presence will be when you do open your business.

    Having said all this, there is always more to it. I own a 40-year old business in a very high traffic university location that is hardly upscale, and my customers have to drive to us and park in a seven-story garage above our shop. Our website is not optimized for mobile (yet) but it is thorough and full of photos and examples. We work very hard at convenience, and we have diverse offerings within the framing business that have served us well for a long time. Notice I did not mention price.

    Be the best you can be in your new venture. Excel at customer service. Have a phenomenal selection. Make your business the one in your area that customers will flock to because ____________. Fill in the blank, and do it exceedingly well. People will pay for that.
  36. ArtMechanics

    ArtMechanics True Grumbler

    Just do it. Do it right now with what you have. Avoid financing. Sweat equity. Buy the best tools you can afford. And buy only when projects require them. Grind craigslist and ebay. That advice was handed down to me and served well. I hope it helps you. Don't over complicate it. Remember 'KISS' keep it simple stupid haha.

    I started in my 1 bedroom apartment. I took all of my things out of the 'bedroom' and made it my 'shop'. I had this 'shop' on yelp and served customers there. There was a full sample wall, wall cutter, v-nailer, compressor and I ordered chop. It was a super crazy thing to do. Yeah! After about a year of that I found a commercial warehouse space. And after about 5 years I've acquired about 800' of shop space and a bunch of pro equipment.

    The down and dirty start list:
    -Good miter saw. I started with a Hitachi.
    -Manual pro mat cutter. Spend $$$ for this.
    -Air compressor.
    -Staple gun (harbor freight T-50)
    -Big ruler.
    -Corner vise.

    You'll also want a v-nailer, wall cutter, and mount press. And then more upgrades as you grow.

    I'm in the 'framing is a destination' boat too. My 'ideal' was price. It had to be affordable! In regard to location you could choose 'ideal' as close to commute freeways. Rather than customers having to drive through town, a place that is only a mile or two from a freeway could be a great advantage. Even if its in an industrial area.

    I worked at a fancy sign framer. 90% of the people that walked in were just time sucks in regard to art sales and framing. There were almost 0 corporate or professional accounts because we were percieved as too expensive even if we weren't.

    I like the warehouse style location because its affordable, allows me to be competitive, and even cutthroat if necessary. Some freight carriers won't come to a busy retail strip mall, or they'll cry and charge you double. Some strip malls have noise, and trash issues that could be real problems. In the warehouse you can run a saw, compressor, and dust collector 24-7. There's also a perception that the customer is 'getting it from the source' which can help with your corporate/professional accounts.

    One last note. Since I'm in a weird industrial area I don't hesitate to make deliveries and house calls to premium customers. Having a cargo van is a huge plus, or at least a hatchback.
    all 10 fingers likes this.
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