Customers can record the stories behind their framed pieces in this vintage-inspired recording booth. All photographs courtesy of Framebridge.
The 14th Street strip is getting even more millennial-friendly thanks to Framebridge’s first brick-and-mortar flagship store, which opens today. A satellite location of the store will open in Bethesda Row in April.
The gallery wall mecca has made a name for itself by streamlining the framing process, offering handcrafted frames at a reasonable price (options start at $39 and shipping is free) and an online process that walks customers step-by-step through choosing a custom layout.
The idea for a store came about when customers started to stop by the company’s Georgetown headquarters, says Framebridge founder and CEO Susan Tynan, who started the company in 2014. They wanted to inquire about seeing a frame in-person or get customer service help, seeking “that human interaction” beyond just a website, says Tynan.
The gallery wall includes objects significant to the Washington area.
That being said, the Framebridge team wanted to be sure that by opting to stop by a physical storefront, customers weren’t losing any of the ease and efficiency they’d come to associate with the site.
“Our goal is if you want to get in and out in five minutes, you could,” says Tynan. “We have built the store design and the technology to support that. We want people to think it’s fun and easy, not an errand you keep putting off.”
In the store, customers can place their art or mementos against layouts that show the pricing and look of various mat and framing combinations. They can also upload photos or artwork via phones to in-store iPads, where an employee will show them what their pieces would look like when framed. At every step, transparency is key: As you choose different frames and mats, the price is updated to reflect your selections. (Of course, if you’d rather do everything online from home and then come in to pick up the frame at the store, you can do that, too.)
Customers can join employees at tables to walk through their custom framing options. Mat and frame choices are clearly outlined with prices.
Need inspiration? Walk up to a cupboard that contains drawers of already-framed pieces or check out the framed gallery wall in-store, which features District mementos such as tickets from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a waiter’s bow tie from the Tombs, and a DC license plate from the 1970s. A section of work by local artists will be available for purchase, too.
And, because the company caters to a lot of millennials (50 percent of Framebridge’s clientele is of that age group, says Tynan), of course the mid-century design vibes abound. Think brass light fixtures, a seating area with low-slung furniture, and lots of bright, clean lines. In a corner sits a 1960s-inspired recording booth, where customers can record the stories and memories associated with whatever object they’re there to frame.
“This is something we really learned about Framebridge—how important the things people framing really are,” says Tynan, who is a champion of being intentional about the things you walk past everyday. “We want people to celebrate what they’re framing, not just how we’re framing it.”
Susan Tynan, Framebridge founder and CEO.
While Tynan wanted the first Framebridge stores to be in the Washington area so that folks from headquarters could stop by as needed, she anticipates more stores will eventually open in new markets. Already, Framebridge has raised over $67 million in funding and has 450 employees between its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Kentucky.
In the meantime, the 14th Street location will be busy. There will be a grand opening party March 28 with food and drink, a DJ, in-store letterpress printing, and poets penning haikus for customers (which, of course, you can have framed). Local decluttering expert Jenny Albertini will give a talk April 11 on living intentionally in a small space, and celebrity designer Nate Berkus will be in the store April 30.
And Tynan hopes to host events with new neighbors like Salt & Sundry, she says, and to become a big part of the 14th Street community.
“We believe the brand stands for having really interesting experiences,” she says. “So inviting people in Washington to celebrate what they’ve done and making sure the space is celebrating that—we think we can do some cool things.”
Framebridge; 1919 14th St. NW