Photo Frame Gallery offers custom frame work
The Wentlands have operated the business for 37 years.
Helen and Carroll Wentland have framed some unusual things in their 37 years at Photo Frame Gallery in Warehouse West.
“We’ve done quite a few old hairpieces,” Carroll said. “Before cross stitch and everything, they (people) sewed hair into cloth and so on.”
“They would brush their hair and they would pull the hair out of the brush and they would put it in a dish and they’d save it,” Helen said. “And then they would weave it. They would weave it into cloth.”
The Wentlands took a wreath made from hair and framed it in a shadow box for a customer. They framed artwork made out of moose hair for another.
They’ve framed old cowboy chaps, a wool robe, quilts made by great-grandmothers, baptismal gowns, wedding veils and other heirlooms.
“And when you do things like that, we know we’ve done them right when people come to pick them up and they look at them and they start to cry,” Helen said. “And they say, ‘Oh, thank you so much, you’ve saved this. It was in an old trunk and we found it and we didn’t know what we were going to do with it, but we thought if we brought it to you you could take care of it.”
Photo Frame Gallery has been located in Warehouse West since 1990. It offers custom framing services and has a small gallery with art for sale.
“We are well aware that not everyone can afford custom framing because it’s not inexpensive and we tell people all the time they can make payments if they’d like to,” Helen said. “If they have something and they can get a frame, a ready-made frame that’s larger they can bring it in and we’ll cut a mat for them and we’ll help them put it together. We just don’t want people to feel that they can’t get something done because we always want to help them.”
Popular custom framing jobs have included athletic jerseys, senior pictures, family pictures and sports memorabilia.
... we know we’ve done them right when people come to pick them up and they look at them and they start to cry.
Helen said there’s a “huge” difference between custom framing and ready-made frames that can be purchased at stores. Ready-made frames do not have the same strength as a custom frame and usually aren’t made of wood but foam, she said.
“All of our frames are wood frames,” Helen said.
The right type of glass, acid-free paper and a deep enough space for what is placed in the frame are important so what is being framed doesn’t touch the glass. The frame also needs to seal properly.
Helen said when they started this work, most people in the Midwest wanted to frame everything in oak and that lasted for about 20 years. But preferences have changed.
“It used to be that the more ornate oak frames were very, very popular," she said. "Now it’s very simple, very clean."
Black is a popular color these days, she said.
Helen said their business has also been affected by supply issues since the pandemic. When their supplier in Minneapolis closed during the pandemic, they had to start getting supplies from a company in Chicago.
‘At this point in time, I’m having our customers pick two to three frames hoping that we can get one of them when we order them,” she said. “... It’s getting better, but it was awful. Getting product takes forever and a day now. There’s no such thing right now as custom framing in a hurry. If we don’t have the molding in stock, we can’t get it in a hurry.”
Carroll said they have turned away framing jobs that are too large but try to help the customer find someone who can do the job.
He said he recently completed a project involving a poster for a customer.
“... it was framed and when it got here it was smashed,” he said. “All the glass was sliding around over the poster and she brought it to us and said, ‘Can you do anything with this, fix it,’ and I said, ‘Well, actually, it’s in pretty rough shape.’”
Carroll told the customer the frame and glass were “shot” and most people would throw the marred poster away, but he offered to work on it to see if he could restore it.
“... I spent one full day working on it and then I spent … every time I had a little time in between visiting with people and working, I would work on that poster,” he said. "And I got that poster to where it’s almost as good as new."
That's what the job is about, Helen said. Helping people.
“And what makes you love this job is seeing the look on her face when she looked at it and she was so incredibly happy and just said, ‘I can’t believe what you have done,’" Helen said. "And that’s, I guess why, we continue to do this job. It just makes people happy.”
Photo Frame Gallery
206 1st St. W, Warehouse West
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday