In an increasingly digital-focused world, I am always shocked when I hear an online business is expanding into the brick and mortar sphere. But one company I was SO excited to hear would be opening doors in D.C. was Framebridge, which opened its first store on 14th Street in late March.
Framebridge was founded in 2014 by D.C. local Susan Tynan after her own sticker shock experience with the framing industry. Tynan wanted to frame four National Parks posters, which though they didn't have monetary value were family mementos. She left the store hours later with $1,600 bill and much frustration.
“The framing cost more than my couch, and that experience just really stuck with me," Tynan said in an interview with TechCrunch.
I have always been intrigued by the mission of Framebridge -- making the framing industry accessible to all with price transparency (prices range from $39-$199) and ordering ease -- but had hesitated to use the service since it was all online. I am not a visual person and wanted to physically see/touch a frame to get the best idea of how it would look with my art before I committed. I've had prints from various travels pile up over the last few years with a loose idea of wanting to create a gallery wall. When I purchased my first home, I decided it was time to finally commit. But given that the majority of my art had been purchased for less than $30, I wasn't keen on spending thousands of dollars on framing. The timing of Framebridge opening a store in D.C. was really kismet for me!
When you walk inside the store, one of the first things you'll notice is a beautiful, eclectic gallery wall on the back left wall. Not only does it showcase its own products with nearly every frame they sell represented, but it perfectly illustrates what Framebridge represents: nothing is too small, or random, to frame. Sourced from past customers who are loaning their framed products to the store temporarily, you'll see everything from political restaurant coasters to the printing plate of the Washington Post the day after the Caps won the Stanley Cup to a special edition Metro card featuring the Pope. Next to the gallery wall, you see a quote running down a column that to me encapsulates exactly what Framebridge hopes to teach its customers about what can and should be framed.
Framebridge what you're proud of. Portraits of your great aunts Onelia, Wilma, Irene and Inez. Framebridge the one that didn't get away. Framebridge Game 7. Front row. Framebridge the things you want to walk past to make you look forward. Framebridge everything that matters.
In other words, frame whatever you want! Frame what is special and important to you, whether it has monetary value or not. My first Framebridge piece is what I plan to make the centerpiece of my travel gallery wall, but it's an item with absolutely no value. It's the front page of a 2016 calendar that I've saved because it says "See the World" and has a vintage-y vibe. I loved it and took special care to cart it with me over several moves. And thanks to Framebridge, it is finally framed in the Bowery frame with a white mat (see the Facebook Live video below to watch the process of choosing a frame).
Given that 50 percent of Framebridge's customers are millennials (they even have a special section on their website for framing Instagram photos), it's likely that many customers will still prefer to frame online. So how is visiting a Framebridge store different from conducting your business online? Honestly, it comes down to personal preference on how you like shopping, and visualizing your frame.
When you work with Framebridge online, you'll either upload your artwork digitally or upload a picture of your art if it's a physical print so you can see what it will look like in the frame. Then enter your art's measurements and you'll automatically be given a price. Then get to work selecting your desired frame, based on color, mounting and mat options. Finally, Framebridge will send you a mail-in package to send your piece to Framebridge's production facility in Kentucky, and then you'll wait to receive your final product in the mail.
When visiting the store, you bring your item in and you work directly with a framing consultant. They will first measure your piece to immediately let you know what price point you are looking at, and then you can give them details such as where your piece will hang, or what other artwork might be around it. They will then show you several framing options that they would recommend for your piece, and then they upload a photo of your print within the frames you are deciding between on an iPad to show you what it would look like. After you make your selection, you leave your art at the store, and wait (probably anxiously) for your final piece to arrive. I placed an in-store order on April 4, and received my order on April 15.
Finally, the store offers a recording booth where you can record the story behind your framed piece -- why you bought it, why you want to frame it, what it means to you etc. -- and either send yourself just a voice recording of your story, or a video recording as well.
Framebridge has plans to open a second smaller (400 square feet) store in Bethesda later this year, so stay tuned!