Follow-Up File: Frame Works marks 20-year anniversary

Name: Ali Semon

Job: Owner

Organization: Frame Works

What she said then: In 2005, The Tribune featured Ali Semon, who had begun to purchase San Luis Obispo frame shop Frame Works on Marsh Street from her parents, John and Kay Semon.

“In high school and college, I never would have thought about going into the business,” said Semon, who realized she wanted to run the store when her parents were lining up another buyer.

“I sat them down and told them that I couldn’t see cutting ties with the business.”

At the time, she oversaw five employees.

What she says now: Celebrating Frame Works’ 20th anniversary this month, Semon has been the sole owner for about two years.

Her mother continues to work one afternoon a week, which the daughter said helps maintain relationships with longtime customers.

“It’s great knowing my parents are just a phone call away” the rest of the time, Semon said. “Actually, they’re just a mile away.”

To celebrate the store’s anniversary, Frame Works is showing a retrospective of local artwork displayed there in the past two decades. Visitors can enter a drawing to win one of five $100 gift certificates given away on April 30.

Over the past few years, uncertainty has kept many customers from placing framing orders, Semon said. As sales declined, she scaled back to three employees.

But those who’ve been holding off bringing in paintings and photographs seem more comfortable with that expense now, she said, though most avoid pricey handcrafted moldings for less expensive ones.

“Our sales are up this year in comparison to last year,” Semon said. The first quarter of 2010 was “significantly better than last year. I’m good with forgetting ’09.”

The gallery portion of the 3,000-square-foot shop helps develop relationships with artists and their buyers.

The store has also won both national and international awards in the past two years from the Professional Picture Framers Association, something Semon believes builds customer trust.

About two years ago — at the request of a client — Semon began carrying lines of molding certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as meeting their standards for environmental responsibility and human rights.

Now Frame Works carries three different lines that are council certified, including wood reclaimed from plantation homes in Louisiana.

Only about 5 percent of her current clients specifically request such materials, she said. But now that she’s found good sources, she can steer customers to more responsible options that don’t affect the price.

“Some of the molding is more of a basic design and can be used on a variety of different pieces of artwork,” she said. “A basic black wood frame, there’s a lot of options there.”

— Raven J. Railey