A tripod – that’s how Mary Ann, Suzanne and Cheryl refer to themselves and their working relationships.
Mary Ann handles the behind-the-scenes back end of administering the business. Cheryl’s strengths are in her proficiency and productivity. Suzanne’s artistic awareness helps her to connect with people on a personal level, making it a lot of fun for customers. A tripod.
Together, Mary Ann, Suzanne and Cheryl help their customers make informed decisions and understand more of what the custom picture framing process entails, including understanding the materials being used, from mats and backing to choosing glass options, as well as specifics relating to each custom piece of work.
By the time customers leave the shop with their finished piece, the team’s objective: letting the work of art, not the frame, speak for itself.
Mary ann martello
“I didn’t want to be a frame store owner,” said Mary Ann. But in 2003, that’s exactly what happened. The company her husband Alex worked for was moving to Connecticut. “We were at a crossroads.”
Ultimately, they decided not to move and disrupt the family, and began thinking about getting involved in a business. In 2004, they aligned their experience and education and bought a framing franchise. Alex used his background in Industrial Arts and as an executive in the paper industry for many years, and he framed. Mary Ann handled the business and sales, falling back on her degree in Business Management and her management consulting experience.
Over time, Mary Ann brought in Suzanne and Cheryl, who took over as the custom framers. This fall, Mary Ann decided to leave the franchise and form MSC Custom Picture Framing.
Two things have driven her consistently. ““I wanted to create an atmosphere that is fun and creative, and in no way intimidating,” she said. What means the most to her, she said, is getting to know her customers and seeing “the reactions on people’s faces when they pick up a piece that is personal to them.”
“I enjoy working with people and presenting an idea to them, and then executing it,” said Suzanne. “To come up with a way to display it for them and then the way they react when they get it, it's very fulfilling in that way.”
Almost since Mary Ann opened the door of her custom framing shop, Suzanne has worked with her as the artist-in-residence. Her colleagues and customers admire Suzanne’s artistic sensibilities, fueled by her education in the arts, and her own work as an artist.
Suzanne initially began framing part-time at Make A Frame, located in New York City near the School of Visual Arts, which she was attending. “It was an interesting place,” she said, where DIY framers could be guided by the staff to the sounds of The Smiths and Sinead O’Connor.
Custom picture framing adds another layer to Suzanne’s own artistry while also giving her the chance to interact with a lot of different types of people, and to see and work on some amazing pieces.
“My passion is music and singing,” said Cheryl. “I didn’t start off thinking about a career dealing with art. But I started framing in 1978 at Prints ‘N Things and have loved it ever since.”
It has been 10 years since she took up shop working with Mary Ann. Some of her favorite projects involve textiles, like the incredibly large tapestry from the 1800s that involved research, a story of its own, and a challenge to figure things out as she worked on it. “It was so big we almost couldn’t get it out the door,” she said.
Marking 40 years as a framing professional, Cheryl still enjoys this hands-on work, using her creativity and working with customers.