VOL. 126 | NO. 10 | Monday, January 17, 2011
Memphis Small Business Spotlight
Friendliness as Important as Framing at David’s Frames & Art
ROBIN GALLAHER BRANCH | Special to The Daily News
A first impression David’s Frames & Art’s spacious showroom is the hundreds of perpendicular moldings decking the back wall.
David Kough prepares to mount artwork for LeBonheur Children's Hospital on a vacuum heat press at David’s Frames & Art. (Photo: Lance Murphey)
A second impression is the shop’s prevailing attitude: friendliness.
The shop’s expertise and good will draw David Perry Smith of the Midtown gallery bearing his name. Smith laughs that he comes to the frame shop and stays 45 minutes talking to David’s Frames & Art owner, David Stough.
Linda Ross of L. Ross Gallery agrees.
“David and his staff are easy to work with and professional,” she said. “They meet deadlines and do wonderful work.”
Ross and Stough collaborated on a very large project: art for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. It included 300 pieces of children’s art that were competitively chosen from entries from area schools.
The winning art then was digitalized, uniformly sized and identically matted and framed at David’s. Ross said the finished look, now decorating the hospital’s halls, is “powerful and consistent.”
Stough, 54, a Memphis native, has been framing for 35 years. He thanks his father for his trade and cannot tell his own story without mentioning his father’s businesses.
In the 1960s, Robert Stough saw he could not support his family of two daughters, a son, and his wife, Wilma, on his salary as a floral designer. So he went to beauty school. He and a business partner soon opened Edward Roberts Beauty Salon on Mendenhall.
Meanwhile, David Stough grew up taking things apart and painting them. He disassembled/reassembled many a bicycle, painting its parts and hanging them to dry on his mother’s clothesline.
“I was always doing things with my hands,” Stough said.
As a sideline to the beauty business, his father framed in the spare room off Stough’s bedroom. When Stough graduated from high school, he went straight into his father’s framing business.
In 1998 Stough opened David’s Frames & Art at 3151 Poplar. He bought out his father’s business, R. & W. Frame and Molding, in 2000. Over the years his business expanded to include stocks of molding and mats (now housed in a warehouse) and top-of-the-line equipment. Consequently, many competitors buy supplies from him and use pieces like the workroom’s 4’x8’ vacuum press.
Stough learned as his business grew.
“There’s not a golden rule about framing; there’s not a book you can learn from,” he said.
The shop’s molding primarily comes from Indonesia. The top row, the expensive samples, are custom made at Husar Picture Frame Company in Chicago. The Roma brand molding also is custom made. Holding a sample, Stough admired its finish.
“This is hand done,” he said. “You can’t get this with a machine.”
His bestseller is a rather innocuous but attractive two-tone frame: gold on the front and a brown/purple on the sides. It works excellently on a surprising number of pieces, Stough said.
Stough keeps up to date on framing industry trends. He advises clients to use cotton mats because they are acid free. He cautions against putting artwork under fluorescent lights: photographs and pictures fade with that exposure, but they do fine under incandescent lighting.
Oils need to breathe, but watercolors should be under glass; the glass, however, must not touch the art because glass sweats.
If invited by a customer, he’ll guide the person toward a proper frame. He believes the eye should be drawn to the art inside the frame and not to the frame itself.
“Don’t let a frame overpower the piece,” he recommends over and over.
Interesting pieces through the years have been a 44-star American flag, and a 96”x110” oil of client’s favorite horse. A current game room project is a No. 14 Cincinnati Reds jersey. The number, of course, belongs to Pete Rose. The jersey is handsewn on a black backboard.
“Our goal in this shop is to do the kind of work that lets someone take our work apart and the art inside is not harmed,” Stough said.
David’s Frames employs five people, and though the business has been hit by the recession, it has survived.
“What has kept us going is corporate clients like the hospitals and galleries,” Stough said.
David Lusk of David Lusk Gallery works with Stough constantly.
“Almost every day David’s is working on something for me and my gallery,” Lusk said.
Lusk has given the bulk of the gallery’s business for years to David’s Frames.
“It’s been a good time the whole way,” Lusk said.
Lusk pointed out that framing a piece for a gallery presentation quite likely differs from framing a piece that goes above a mantel.
“David knows the difference. David knows how to do framing for a gallery and for a home,” Lusk said.
Almost inevitably, Stough’s clients become his friends. Smith tells a story of running out of picture hangers. He ran to the frame shop with the idea of purchasing some quickly.
“Put it on my bill,” he told Stough. Instead, Stough grabbed a hefty handful of about 20, dropped them in a paper bag, and sent Smith on his way.
“That kind of service,” Smith said, “is what he’s known for. It creates a loyalty among his customers.”