David McDowell has seen it all. He’s worked for the big art stores such as Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores and Michaels. He knows, first hand, how the large conglomerates work. But at the end of the day, McDowell was not satisfied, until he found Art Avenue Gallery. He is now their custom framer.
Art Avenue Gallery is a small local business tucked away in the Fairlawn Town Centre next to Panera Bread. It specializes in producing customized frames for all kinds of artwork. According to Joyce Pinkus, they customize frames for museum pieces to personal works of art. Her daughter, Kelley Hansen, is the owner.
Hansen has been involved with the art community long before she bought Art Avenue Gallery. Before she purchased it from the previous owner, she was a loyal customer for 20 years.
“Whether I was living in Los Angeles or Pennsylvania, I would always bring my artwork back to Art Avenue to have it framed,” Hansen said. “I had a good relationship with the old owner, Carl Pallas."
It was this relationship that inspired her to buy the company. She said she couldn’t sit by and let a company like this vanish.
“Where would people get their artwork framed?” she said.
Hansen said much of the company’s success lies with the level of customer service they offer. She said in addition to her own input, a customer gets advice from her mom and McDowell.
“David is very artistic and he can also add a lot of things to the existing frame that you can’t buy anywhere else,” Hansen said.
McDowell, who holds a degree in ceramics, believes that the quality of the craftsmanship overshadows how many pieces of art a company can produce. These were his reasons for exiting Jo-Ann’s fast-paced world.
“They are limited to the types of creative things that they can do,” McDowell said. “They are producing in mass quantities, and when you’re producing things in mass quantities, your creativity for individual work is very limited.”
Pinkus agreed that coming to a smaller local business is a better investment than going to one of the larger, more established chains. She said the larger companies do not always use the best materials.
“They will use certain frames that are composite type frames,” Pinkus said. “They have things like formaldehyde in them.”
According to Pinkus, Art Avenue Gallery’s frames are “strictly wood or strictly metal.”
When it comes to customization, McDowell said a smaller company like Art Avenue Gallery cannot be defeated. He does the intense detail-oriented changes to frames that larger companies do not have the time or resources to do. In an attempt to highlight the differences, he likened a store like Jo-Ann to Lowe’s and Art Avenue Gallery to a small hardware store.
“At a small hardware store there is guy behind the counter who has been in the hardware business for 50 years,” McDowell said. “He knows what the problem is with your toilet before you even show him.”
Apparently, according to McDowell, you don’t get the same service at the bigger stores.
“There’s a teenager working on college break,” he said. “They don’t even know where the plumbing section is. That’s the difference between going to Jo-Ann’s and coming to us.”
Art Avenue Gallery was originally located in Summit Mall, said Pinkus. She said it relocated to the Fairlawn Town Centre about four years ago due to cost.
Art Avenue Gallery is one of many companies participating in American Express’s Small Business Saturday, a national event hosted by the credit card company to recognize the efforts of small businesses. It is held on the same week as Black Friday.