Reframing a problem

A little bit of curbside creativity helps the Framing & Art Centre keep the doors open

Photo: Sarah White

LOCKDOWN HAS DAWNED over Ontario once more, and with it the return of a familiar reality: curbside service.

FRAMING & ART CENTRE, a custom framing shop in town, struggled during the first lockdown — “closed for two months with no revenue coming in,” its owner, Sarah White, writes in a press release. It was not ideal for the business of custom framing, which relies so much on customers being able to come in, see and review the framing of their pieces.

This time, though, Framing & Art Centre is going all drive-thru.

“Customers simply drop off their work with curb-side service, and then make an appointment for either a video consultation or a drive-thru session,” White says. “Once completed, the work is picked up curb-side or delivered.

“I think people are spending a lot of time in their homes and staring at their walls. They’re having to make adjustments” ―Sarah White

“It’s not as easy for me to offer things online,” White explains. “You can’t frame online, it’s just not that easy. I can spend anywhere from an hour to two hours with a client, just making decisions.”

So far, clients have been warming up to the service. “The response has been pretty good,” White says. “Most clients that have reached out asking if I’m doing any framing have been open to the whole concept of basically standing outside, even though it’s freezing cold.”

Framing & Art Centre says the idea was made possible by their new location on Horton Street, and its large glass garage door that customers can drive up beside. (Maybe not as far out there an idea as drive-in church, but clever nonetheless.)

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The framing business, White says, has managed to find its way fairly well through the past year. “I think people are spending a lot of time in their homes and staring at their walls,” she says. “They’re having to make adjustments.”

It’s a piece of good news for a historic London business that was already facing a challenging rebuilding period, with the business moving to the other side of downtown. “We moved into a big empty space and we had to build walls, get electricians in and other people in here. That was the difficult part,” White told the London Free Press, back in May, when the doors to the new shop were just opening. White’s parents opened Framing & Art Centre more than 40 years ago, and she’s been the owner for the last 20. Its former Kent Street location had been a fixture on Richmond Row, but was forced to move when their rent was set to more than double.

For businesses in positions like theirs, a second lockdown might’ve been rough — but White is happy that they are able to keep the lights on. “It has been working,” she says. “Not our usual volume of sales, but enough to keep the doors open.”

It’s a story we’re likely to see a lot more of, once again — creative adaptations to another challenging lockdown.

“We are so grateful for our customers who have gone out of their way to support us,” White writes. “The support for local business is truly one bright spot through this pandemic.” Reframing a problem curbside Retail Kieran Delamont

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