As part of our 70 years in glazing, we are turning the spotlight on some of our customers, showcasing the talent and expertise of some of the people in our industry. In our blog, we are going beyond the glazing and sharing stories about the framers in our latest ad campaign, continuing with Kathy Rafferty from Lake Forest Frame & Design in Lake Forest, IL.
It was a lifelong love and career in art education that influenced Kathy Rafferty to open a custom frame shop. While teaching art at a local high school, she began using a mat cutter that had been donated to the art department. When she would cut mats for her students’ art show pieces, she was touched by their amazement at how the mats transformed their art.
After taking framing courses and building her skills as an employee at a frame shop, she opened Lake Forest Frame & Design in 2000. Originally launched with two other partners, Kathy became the sole owner of the shop several years ago and has continued its tradition of making customers the number one focus of the business.
“From the day we opened, our clients have come first,” said Kathy, who works alongside three other employees, including a former business partner. “We designed the shop to make our clients comfortable. We wanted to convey the feeling that we’re working in our home, and they are our guests.”
Because of her customer-first philosophy, quality is a significant part of the design approach at Lake Forest Frame & Design. Preservation and design are important to her customers, which translates to the use of acid-free and protective materials, but also materials that enhance the piece, like fabric mats and Museum Glass®.
“Tru Vue® glazing enhances the work I do, because customers see the difference and appreciate it without glare,” Kathy said. “People want to have quality and materials that appeal to them. Once they see the texture of a fabric mat and the clarity of Museum Glass, customers want those for their pieces.”
Many of the items that customers bring in to frame are treasured, such as christening gowns, wedding veils, medals, baby shoes, and artwork. While Kathy has a good amount of repeat clientele, her shop is always getting new customers. As she describes it, first-timers are often nervous when they first come in, but by the second visit, they walk right in as if they’ve been coming there forever.
Closing in on two decades in business, Kathy has seen a fair amount of change in the industry, especially in the tools and materials custom framers use. One thing that has been consistent in her shop’s success is something she believes is key for any small business owner.
“I think to do well in business you need to keep it personal,” she said. “You can find a lot out about a person, their preferences, and what they are looking for by talking to them. Business owners should take the time to visit with people, to make connections.”
It’s these personal connections that have kept Lake Forest Frame & Design in business for so long and Kathy with the business, even through the transitions of difficult economies and sole proprietorship.
“I love what I do,” said Kathy. “People have stopped asking me if I am going to retire. I lose track of time when I am in the shop. I love the framing, and I love the people.”
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This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.