Home-Based Framer

Ron Eggers

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Jul 6, 2001
I have a friend named Linda who is a home-based framer near here. Her shop is the nicest framing workshop I have seen anywhere. I would kill for her workshop (provided I could chose who to kill.)

Linda doesn't deal in volume. She has told me she sometimes goes for weeks without a new order. Some people might guess she is "dabbling" in picture framing.

At the Chicago PMA/PPFA convention recently, Linda became (I believe) the first Master Certified Picture Framer in Wisconsin.

Regardless of how you feel about certification, if you are at all familiar with the MCPF certification, you know it is a hands-on, painstaking process. Linda isn't dabbling.

There are other serious home-based framers on TG. (Linda's not a Grumbler, so I'm probably not embarrassing her.) I'm about to become one of them and I feel like I'm in pretty good company.

Anybody got a problem with that?

BTW, since my overhead will be so low, I plan to cut all my prices by 70% and put everyone else out of business. :D
As I have written many times before, there is a huge difference between "location" and "attitude". There are many elaborate store front locations whose owner has a "rinky dink" attitude, and many homebased businesses whose owner has a "professional" attitude.

How we view ourselves and our businesses is very important. Ron, you joked on the "what to wear to work" thread about not having to "dress-up" now that you were going to become a homebased framer. I started to reply that once you allowed yourself to think that way, you'd go down hill from there. But, I figured you knew that.

Many times, working at a home location requires much more self-discipline than "going" to work every day. I cheated - I hired an employee and now I have to go to work. (except for the next few weeks while I will be - uh, away from things for a while... someone once said, "don't think of it as surgery, think of it as a trip back to the factory for an overhaul...)

How will I be able to tell?

Anyway, I'm thinking it's LJ that will go under.
Jay, I've been in business nearly 15 years without them...

Let me take that back - one time in 15 years I had a framer friend get one frame from LJ for a customer for me.

Do I need to postpone sarcasm on Mondays?

I like them but if we don't work out our shipping dilemma they won't make to my new location either. I doubt it would take me under.
Originally posted by Jay H:
Do I need to postpone sarcasm on Mondays?

Only if you have trouble reading it as well! ;)

I thought my reply was dripping with as much as your's was - apparently not.

Is it better to have loved L-J and lost them than never to have loved them at all?

After selling Larson and Juhl Pacific and then Larson-Juhl frames for 27 years, a lot of people come in and say,

"I want a frame
just like the frame
you sold to dear old dad."

Chances are it was an L-J frame.
Nahh Betty we cool! If you anger me I'll just prank call you.

Ron do you need a tissue? Your getting all sappy!
Ron - are you seriously saying that LJ will no longer sell to you after a 27 year relationship just because you are switching you location to a van (down by the river?). I find that really harsh.
Why are you moving to a home location? Don't you have a nice woodworking setup in addition to your retail space and workroom where you are now? What kind of space and facilities will you have in your home setup? How accessible is it for customers? Do you plan a different marketing approach, or to serve a different segment of the market?
Just curious.
:cool: Rick
I'm about to become one of them and I feel like I'm in pretty good company.

Anybody got a problem with that?
With being a MCPF or a home-based framer?

With being a MCPF - No.

With being a home-based framer? - Yes

Seems to me that from a business perspective, being a home-based framer puts you at a disadvantage.
I thought that to be a CPF and a MCPF, you had to work for a framing operation for certain periods of time before being eligible for certification - am I missing something.


p.s I started as homebased and moved to a storefront for very good reasons - visability and professional perception; my studio was very well done, but most people are lazy and won't drive the 3 miles out of our village, but complain about parking in the village - go figure! Those who came loved the studio, so who knows!! Time tells the story...
A friend of mine left a existing frame shop and two years later started his own out of his house. L-J would not deliver to his house but would meet him in town or UPS it to him.

He did just fine until he ran out of existing customers and needed some new ones.
Rick, the workshop will be nicer and more efficient than what I have now. Visibility and accessibility will be nearly nonexistent. More details later about why that works for me.

Less, if this were strictly a business decision, it would be a bad one. It's not, so it's not. There is very little chance I'll ever pursue an MCPF. I'm very content being a grandfathered CPF.

Elaine, my friend Linda hasn't always been home-based. It doesn't happen often, but I'm not the first framer to move from storefront to home-based.

If I missed anyone, I'll pick it up later.

You have to do what's best for you and only you can know what that is.

You have built up a wonderful reputation as a framer based on what you have already accomplished. No one can take that away from you.

I find it difficult to believe that not having LJ would really be the end of the world. And if it is, I'm sure you can find a way to tweak the system.

Do what makes you feel good inside and GO FOR IT! It may be an ideal situation for you.

And if it's not, where does it say you can't ever go back to a store front if you choose to do so at a later time?

Best of luck to you.

Amy McCray
Sounds like you're fitting your biz around your life, not the other way around. That takes guts, and my opinion of you just got even higher.

Best of luck to you in settling in, and unpacking the 160+ boxes. I can only imagine WHAT treasures you will find when/if they ever get unpacked!

All the best to your parents, too. Btw, have you cleared this home-based thing with Dogzilla?
I'm not sure what possessed me to start this thread. Ostensibly, I wanted to brag about my friend, Linda, but - once again - it ends up being all about me.

I've been making vague references on other threads, and I guess I thought it was about time to lay it all out.

Some of you think I'm committing business suicide and some of you are thinking I'm making some kind of heroic sacrifice. You're both wrong.

This is something I've been thinking about for a very long time and I always assumed it would happen eventually. The opportunity and the necessity both arrived together, so it's happening sooner rather than later.

I really can't imagine why it would be but, if this transition is actually of some interest, I'll keep you posted. I'll even post pictures.

Don't expect a lot of personal details, though.

Gumbogirl, you got it pretty close. I think you decide what kind of life you want for your family and for yourself and you fashion your business accordingly. It doesn't take any guts at all, though - just a shift in priorities.
Necessities, in my experience, displace opportunities throughout life. Doing what is instilled in you as the right thing is most important.

We started out home based, and did a pretty good business, I thought. And we lived in a house in the middle of a pasture 3~4 miles from the city limits!

We haven't always seen eye-to-eye (there's that matter of the $2.00 you owe me) but if it depends on your personality, your eagerness to help and your skills, I believe you'll do ok.

Our priorities DO shift throughout life. I can testify to that. Best of luck to you, my friend. You'll be just fine.
Best part of being a small business owner is the flexibility.

My business is a five minute ride from my Mom and Dad's and my brother's house. They stop in all the time and I LOVE that. It's a 40 minute ride from my house to my business. I HATE that. But I do get to see half of my family almost everyday. I have two brothers that live too far away. One in Virginia the other in Rochester. I think I'll open some satellite offices.

Good Luck in your new location, Ron. If you really start jones(ing) for LJ, maybe you can order through another near-by Cheesehead. I'll bet LJ cuts you some slack anyway.
Ron, does John Ranes have L-J? Maybe you could come to an arrangement with him to order through his shop? I'm sure he would be happy to help you out. Otherwise, I have an account with them, you could order through me if you find yourself in a bind. The problem is, I don't get truck delivery so I have to pay UPS shipping plus I'm a bit far away to make it practical to get deliveries to you easily.
There is life after Larson Juhl - regardless of their attempt to eliminate the basement framer. I have a home based shop and after buying from them (LJ) for ten years + and about $7500 a year I received a letter (5/5/00) stating they "...decided to discontinue sales to framers who sell directly to consumers through residential operations." "..this decision was made in order to improve the long-term health of the custom picture framing industry." My account was always up to date to take advantage of the 2% discount. I'm still in business today and doing as well as ever. I have LJ's letter posted in the shop with a comment "JUST SAY NO TO LARSON JUHL". I'm the only shop in a community of about 7000. I'm a career firefighter and able to do business on my off days and at night. I've found a wonderful company who appreciates my business - Gemini Moulding. Don't get tied down to LJ - MOVE ON AND IMPROVE YOURSELF.
Please, everybody, stop worrying about L-J.

Eight hours after I made the big decision, I had my "L-J problem" solved. Despite appearances, I am not a complete idiot. Don't make me talk details, 'cause then I'd have to kill you.

I have used Gemini for years and expect to be using them more now. Also, Evald Moulding in Watertown, Wisconsin is a wonderful distributor.

It is unhealthy to depend entirely on one vendor for anything (as some of my customers are now finding out*) and I have never done that.

*Sorry. Bad joke.
At one time, ALL framers were "home" based. As were all the other "cottage" industries.

As for the excuse of "inprove the long-term health" of the industry, sounds like Wal-Mart and Michael's are squeeling little piggies and Mr. Buffet doesn't like competition.

There have always been the little guy framing for 1/2 price in his basement for friends and neighbors. And some even survive and grow. Some even grow into the light of day and get a retail location and pay their way like the rest of us retailers on Main St.

But then, what do you call the guy on Elm St, that buys the Victorian, restores the house for a gallery & frame shop on main floor & basement, and lives in the 2nd & 3rd floor? Or even the framer who has the same configuration on the Main St?

LJ has drawn a line that others don't. Others just want a location where their rep can come by during "business hours" and see you. UPS charges about double to deliver to a residential location.

And bottom line: The customers of a basement framer, were never "Your" customers anyway.
Framing from home is different than framing in a retail location, I moved home after having a retail location for about 20 years, but it’s really a change in business strategy and operation than anything else. I still do quality work and provide most of the services I did before or I source them out.

I mostly go to the client’s home, which I’ve always done and it works very well for me. I am able to satisfy their needs better because I work with them in the home and usually pick up way more to do than they intended when I was initially called.

I downsized because I found I was running a business, not framing and had no time for teaching or writing.

The only thing I disagree with Baer on is that I can frame for half what the retail framer can frame for. Not really true. I pay more per unit for every job I do because I get no discounts, buy chop and even joined often, I can't have a lot of people come to my house so I don't advertise, I pay shipping for everything and buy in small quantities plus I do everything with the help of my husband, no employees.

I dropped credit cards, a business bank account, a business phone, still have to have a license, insurance and meet local codes for running a business in my home which includes the ability to get my car into my garage in case I am reported by a neighbor. Everything is on rollers and yes, I can get my car in at a moments notice. Of course no signage at all.

I expect my customer base will eventually go away.

The big advantage is that if I get no work for a while, I don’t still have to pay retail rents though I do have to pay my mortgage and electricity.

I think there are going to be many more home based framers in the future because retail framing is harder to get into and more expensive than it used to be and harder to make a living at, though when a framer is successful they can make a lot of money. Framers have to be good business people to make it anymore, not just talented framers.

Excuse so many words, I just meant to say good luck Ron.
Originally posted by Baer Charlton:
But then, what do you call the guy on Elm St, that buys the Victorian, restores the house for a gallery & frame shop on main floor & basement, and lives in the 2nd & 3rd floor?
You call it The Evergreen Gallery and Frame Shop. ;) By the way Baer, how did you know we were in an old Victorian on the corner of Elm and Cambridge Streets? The only difference is we don't live here, not enough room with the photo studio in it too. We also don't frame in the basement, the work rooms are on the second floor. That's why L-J will still deals with us. I just show the reps that there is no living space in the house and they let me keep my account.

Their policy against home based businesses plus the elimination of readymade frames from their line cost them the business of a number of home based photo studios I know. There are quite a few photographers that live in the same building as their studio. Many of the best ones businesswise and artistically have this kind of arrangement. Makes it easier on the family when you work long hours.
Geez, I have always wanted to find an old home and convert it to a business too. We have areas here in Denver where old homes have been made into business's. I know some people live up above their stores. If you are zoned for business and have an actual sign they would actually not serve you?

I'm a bit baffled that they wouldn't deal with Ron after 27 years I imagine he is more than a hobbyist.

Oh well, we just got our first full Joann's superstore here last week. I went and checked it out. It was a little disturbing to literally see LJ's almost complete line on display........I've been nothing but supportive of them servicing Joann's but it did cause me to take note. (gulp)

Good luck on your move Ron. You will do well and you are making the right choice!
I'm just getting my home-based frame shop up and running. The fact that LJ doesn't want my business makes no difference to me. There are plenty of moulding manufacturers and other supplies that will gladly set-up accounts with you. After working in retail for a few years and seeing many of the different lines available, LJ's is not all that impressive. I'll take Roma Moulding and Picture Woods over LJ anyday.

Cybil, You might want to take a look at Garrett, just over the hill from you in Santa Cruz. 1800-645-3344.

You too Ron. PS: I love the van idea.

Nona, I forgot to put the quote marks around the half price crack. It is a known missnomer. I have even found a couple of home shops that because of high UPS, chop only, or joined only, and pre-cut mats couldn't compete with retailers....(then why do it??)
Baer, I'll still get delivery, even in the sticks. I'll still have my saw, chopper and underpinner and I expect to stock more moulding than I now do. No precut mats, either. I'll still have a CMC ('course, it'll still be a Mat Maestro) and 750 sheets of matboard in stock.

I appreciate everyone worrying about me, though.
Around Michigan LJ does all the framing for the Joann's. They pick it up and drop it back off again. When I asked my LJ rep the reply was "we are doing some work for them". Someone said it was a 6 week wait at Joann's for framing. I wish I had so much business that I was up to 6 week wait... I would even take a 4 week wait.
It is so hard to stay in business as it is, I don't need to help my suppliers put me out of business. I have removed most of my LJ samples and found many other suppliers glad to fill the space.
Is this is a feel sorry for Ron thread? :( I'd say we need to feel sorry for Mrs. Ron. Good luck in that new van.
Yeah SteveT, we have discussed the LJ/Joann's connection at length. I have always spoken in favor of LJ, they are just doing business. I shouldn't have brought it up, it just bugged me seeing all LJ in a BB. I didn't know it would have that effect.
Ron, I have been a home based framer for going on 12 years now. My business is different from most, because much of what I get in is high buck, better framing. When they come to me they know they will be paying more. It's quality not volume that keeps me going.

My shop used to be on LJ's truck route, but as part of the ever changing world of the framing vs cottage industry, I was forced to look elsewhere for the things that I had always purchased from them. At first it was difficult because I depended on them so much. But I survived to frame another day, and as many of you know really good things have come my way since then.

I love not having to battle traffic to go to work. And also being able to leave if I need to.

This is the sign that hangs in my showroom and it sums up a home based business pretty well. Once you make your move you will come to know just how true this is:



Good luck in your new location Ron.