|Volume 11, Issue 11||
About two-thirds of the shop’s walls are filled with frame moldings in a vast array of colors, sizes and finishes. The remaining walls have pre-framed art, ready to take home. Wire-frame bins hold unframed art for sale. “We don’t take consignments,” explains Chip. “We have to like it enough to buy it. Artists do sometimes come by with work for sale, and occasionally we buy that, but most of it comes from artists’ representatives.” They have built up a network of art suppliers from their many years in the framing business, and from their previous experience as art brokers.
Bradshaw Framing and Gallery was one of the first tenants in the Peterkort Towne Square at Cedar Hills Blvd. and Barnes. Rd., opening their doors in 1995. “We actually had the second signed lease in the center,” Amy recalls. “The anchor tenant, Albertsons, was the first. Our plan was that all around us were fields that we hoped would fill quickly with new homes with a lot of bare walls. They did, and all the fields are nearly gone. We were lucky enough to be able to fill a lot of walls!”
The couple met in Cedar Mill in 1985. Chip, who grew up here, was an inventory manager at Leupold & Stevens, a Beaverton company that makes optical equipment such as rifle scopes and binoculars. Amy worked as a paralegal for a prominent criminal defense law firm in Portland. They married in five years later.
About a year after they married, they started their first frame shop, Prestige Framing in Tigard. “We had a partner who had been working in the industry. He wanted to start his own business, but didn’t want to do it alone. A year later we decided we loved the business, but didn’t want a partner. By this time we had opened a second store in Wilsonville. Chip and I sold our interest in Prestige Framing and incorporated as Bradshaw Frame & Gallery. We kept the Wilsonville location and our former partner kept the Tigard location and the business name.”
She continues, “We closed down the Wilsonville store in about 2002. Back in 1998, Chip and I had bought a ten-acre farm out north of North Plains, and the drive was getting a bit much, commuting to Wilsonville. Our lease was up out there, and the Wilsonville Town Center wanted more of a lease than we were prepared to commit to. Also, it was difficult to control the quality of our work with both locations, since we had a number of employees, and we didn’t want to lose that great quality of work that we produced.”
|Tim, Amy and Chip|
They still live on the farm near North Plains, and that’s where the frames are built. They have one employee, Tim Shroyer. He started working for them as a teenager, doing odd jobs around the property. They have a large pole-building where they keep the molding inventory, and Tim cuts and joins the molding into frames for customer orders. “He also does some delivery work and other tasks as required,” Amy notes. “He’s been with us for over 12 years now and is the closest thing we have to a son. He was home-schooled and lives out near us. His flexible hours were perfect for us. When he was done with high school, we helped him through more education, and he is now also a great hair stylist and works at a salon in the Pearl. He works for us two days a week and works four days a week as a stylist.”
Projects are assembled in the back room of the shop. They use a computer-controlled mat cutting machine that turns out perfectly-sized and beveled mats every time. It also has the capability of making some fancy corners like the ones in the Blazer jersey, right.
They keep abreast of new products by attending trade shows in Seattle, New York, and Las Vegas. Amy says, “We also have great local and regional reps that call on us frequently.” Many of the molding products are made in America, others come from Europe, and Italy in particular. The inventory turns over regularly—Amy says the life of molding is about two years.
|Their digital mat cutter can easily create fancy corners like these. They have Blazer items for sale in the shop.|
They have a very diverse group of customers. They do a lot of work for sports companies, from teams like the Blazers, to sports memorabilia dealers like Pacific NW Sports in Seattle. They have become experts in “shadowbox framing” items like jerseys, hats, ticket stubs, photos, pins, awards, marathon medals, or other keepsakes. They can turn a pile of “stuff” into an attractive and interesting object that will not only be durable but will enhance a home or office.
“Clients bring us the darndest things. We like a good challenge.” Amy laughs, “No, it wasn’t our idea to frame the piranha skulls from someone’s honeymoon, or carved whale bones.” They learned by doing, and are now well-known for being able to handle just about anything.
Their website notes, “Mechanical engineering firms have had us frame their inventions— everything from radial arm saws to teeny tiny pieces of medical equipment. We’ve framed other objects such as firearms, antique tools, baby shoes, seashells, jewelry, watches, record albums, knives, flags, chunks of cement—you name it and we’ve probably framed it. There is always a really good story behind the object being framed and we love hearing your stories. We’ll take the time to figure out the best way to display your treasures.”
Artists bring their work in for gallery shows and sales. “Generally, they choose more neutral frames,” Amy says, “because they want the framed piece to work in lots of environments and be easier to sell.”
Interior designers make up a sizeable portion of their client list. Amy enjoys working with them, and is a member of several designer groups, both for networking and to keep up on styles and trends. She also belongs to The Portland Executives, a business group that has a weekly luncheon meetings. “It’s a 90+ year-old group with members such as US Bank, Portland Trail Blazers, Parr Lumber, and many others. One of our goals is to support each other and make us better business people,” she explains.
That’s just one of the ways that the Bradshaws market their company. In addition to advertising in the News, they just refurbished their website, bradshawgallery.net, with the help of a team of professionals that includes “an SEO guy (online search specialist), a coder, and a graphics person. I am at the beginning of a social media marketing program, wish me luck!” The site was designed using WordPress, so she’s able to update it. She’s blogging about her experiences and philosophy, and sharing her expertise. You can sign up on the website or “like” her Facebook page.
|Amy helps a walk-in customer choose materials to re-frame a favorite piece of art.|
They also make use of direct marketing through their customer database. But word-of-mouth, and “location-location-location,” are also very important. As I was interviewing them for this article, a utility repairman came in with a picture he wanted reframed. He had been working in the area, and noticed the store, and came back with his piece. “We’ve been very happy with this location. The Peterkorts have been great landlords,” says Amy, “and they’ve also given us a lot of business through referrals and art for their offices.”
Amy and Chip both credit their success to customer service. Amy says that her previous work in the legal field had, “nothing to do with art or framing, but it did teach me to take my work very seriously and not make mistakes. Nobody is going to go to jail if we don’t get a framing order done on time, but we try to run the place as if it is that critical. We think it results in some really good customer service. In nearly 23 years we’ve learned so much about picture framing and art.”
Although they consider their products to be great gifts—framed artwork, family memorabilia in a shadowbox, or a gift certificate—they say that their busy season is usually after the holidays, when people take down all the decorations, and it’s gray outside for so long. “They’re ready to bring some color into their homes,” says Amy.
If a customer requests it, Amy will visit with them in their home to help choose the right art or framing selections, at no extra cost. “It’s nice to see the space and get a feel for the rest of the home and the people that live there. It’s also really nice to be able to measure things myself.”
They enjoy life on their farm, and have chickens and an extensive vegetable garden. This year they grew 48 tomato plants and a large patch of corn. A few years ago they were given about 300 rose bushes that were otherwise going to be thrown out. They planted them in formal rose beds and enjoyed them for several years before they got to be too much work. Amy said one day she came home and, “found that Chip had tilled that land up for the vegetable garden! And we’re very glad we did.”
They really like doing business in Cedar Mill. Chip grew up here, which is part of why the Peterkort location was a good fit. “The people have strong family values, and many of them have families that go back several generations. The education and income level is good for our business because there are a lot of people who appreciate art and can afford to create a beautiful environment.” But even if you’re not wealthy, they can help you preserve your investment in the art you own or help you find something new to bring some joy into your home.
The shop is located in Peterkort Town Square west of Albertson’s, next to the Hallmark store, at 1120 SW Barnes Rd. They’re open Monday-Friday. 10-6, Saturday 10-5, and Sunday by appointment. Call them at 503-644-5496 or visit the website at bradshawgallery.net.
Published monthly by Pioneer Marketing & Design
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291