Framing the Future

An interview with Heather Burgess of The Great Frame Up

1.  What is the history of The Great Frame Up?  What inspired you to open up the store?  Why Grosse Pointe? 

While I was attending Eastern Michigan University, I was looking for a part time job. I happened to see a Help Wanted sign in the window of The Great Frame Up (yes, an actual sign, as it was 22 years ago, and that’s how things were done back then!). I applied and got the job. On my second day of work, probably sick of all of my questions and inquiries to figure out the ins and outs and why’s of custom framing, the owner, Tom, said to me “you are going to own this place someday”. After 4 years of working here, Tom’s prediction came true! 18 years later, I’m still here!

2.  What is you favorite part about owning this business. What is your not so favorite part. 

I have several favorite parts about owning TGFU. FIrst, all of the clients that I have met, many of whom have become friends. I have watched them have children and watched their children grow up,  become Grandparents, get married, get divorced, graduate, I’ve cried with them after they’ve lost friends and family members, and have just enjoyed celebrating the important moments in their lives, whether big or small. I am honored to be a part of their lives, and that they trust me with their oftentimes irreplaceable mementos. Second, I love watching the look on my client’s faces when they pick up a completed project. Often times a spouse will bring in a painting or family heirloom that they are not fond of and are just framing out of obligation to their family or their spouse. However, once they see it framed, they are typically ecstatic at how the frame has enhanced their art to make them fall in love with it. My not so favorite part is having to deal with all of the things that are out of my control, especially post-covid. There is a wood shortage, so many frames have been discontinued or backordered for long periods of time without notice from my vendors. I hate having to tell a client after they’ve found the perfect frame, that it will be delayed for months, or even worse, that it is no longer available. 

3.  How has COVID affected business? 

Business has actually increased since Covid. With people spending so much time at home, they noticed bare walls and tired art that needed refreshing or updating. They also did a lot of “spring cleaning” which led to the unveiling of lost treasures and artwork that they had been meaning to frame for years.

4.  How many different types of framing are there? What is your favorite type of frame? 

There are infinite types of frames. Frames can be stacked, expanding the options far beyond the thousands of options that we already have. We also have the ability to do minor refinishing, so if you find the perfect frame for your artwork that might be the wrong color or the wrong shade, we can refinish it. That combined with hundreds of matting options—paper, fabrics, textures, the options are seemingly endless. I honestly don’t have a favorite type of frame, my favorite is when a frame looks as though it was custom created for a piece of particular art, when you’d swear that a frame was created solely for that one pice of art! 

5. What is the most memorable piece of art that you have framed? 

Probably a hair wreath, made out of human hair. We have framed several. They are visually stunning. 

6.  What piece of advice would you give to everyone about framing?

I would like people to know that the old saying “you get what you pay for” is absolutely true when it comes to framing. One of my favorite quotes is “Quality custom framing will outlast the carpeting and furniture in your home, as well as all the cars, clothing, sound systems, televisions and kitchen appliances you will ever purchase. It can pass from generation to generation and still look as good as the day it was done.” People often have sticker shock when they see how much custom framing can cost. This quote definitely helps put it in perspective. 

7.  When do you plan to retire?  What would you like to do later in life? 

I still probably have 15-20 more years left before I retire. By that time, I hope to be able to travel, I still have many places left on my bucket list. I also hope to be able to focus on sharpening my culinary skills, which I thoroughly enjoy, but have very little time for now.

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