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A Day on the Job

Tracy Riordan, co-owner EastWest Gallery & Framery, 529 Central Ave., St. Petersburg.

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003

How would you describe your business?

We're primarily picture framers and an art gallery. We do sell framed art and framed photographs and some unframed items, but the bulk of our business is the framing.

What kind of hours do you work?

Well, I still work another job two days a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays as a physical therapist. I spend probably about 40 hours a week doing this and at least another 16 or 18 in my other job.

How did you get interested in doing this?

I had been laid off from my physical therapy job, and my partner had just graduated from the Eckerd adult college program, and we weren't sure what we were going to do. I just knew that in 10 years I did not want to be doing PT full time. My partner has a background in graphic arts and as a cabinetmaker, so for her this is a pretty natural extension.

So how long have you been in business?

It will be three years in May that we opened in this location.

What kind of training do you need for this?

We attended a short course in picture framing in Atlanta given by one of the picture framing companies. But both of us have done a lot of things with our hands. We own a home together so have done all kinds of building and craft things related to renovating a house.

What do you consider to be important tools of the trade?

Probably patience and being able to listen and problem-solve. Problem solving is No. 1 and within that is being able to listen to the customer. Because when they bring something in, if you have to spend two hours with them deciding what they want, then you've lost money.

What are the steps in framing?

You have to cut the frame, cut the mat, you have to cut the glass and attach or mount the picture. Then you clean the glass, and put the glass on. And usually we seal all these with tape. Then it's ready to be fitted up. Fitting it up just means putting that whole package of the glass, mat and backing board all sandwiched together, in the frame and then putting the brown paper over the back and putting on the hardware to hang it.

What are some of the more unusual items you've framed?

We framed a cummerbund that was a pre-Columbian textile. It was from Peru and was like 1,000 years old. We've framed swords, newspaper articles. We did a box with 10 marathon medals that were sewed into the backing board.

How about the hardest framing job?

We made a shadow box that actually lifted up in the front to display a customer's collection of Japanese tobacco pouches, like they would wear with a kimono.

What items do you frame most often?

Probably limited-edition prints.

What are some of the hazards of your job?

Definitely working with glass. When you work with these really large pieces you can hurt yourself. Of course, you could also take your hand off in a saw.

What is your favorite thing about the job?

I love doing those fabrics. Somebody brings you something that's already done, and I get to put it together in a way that looks outstanding without having to do the hard part of what the person did to create that pretty thing.

What is your least favorite thing?

My least favorite thing is probably all the bookwork, all the accounting, and there's a lot of it. That's sort of tedious, repeating work, but if you don't do it you're really in trouble.

How much money do you make?

I'd like to be at $250,000 in sales per year. In the framing business in general, the profit margin is like 20 percent. So we'd be making $50,000 a year pretax, which I'd be happy with.

What would your 'dream job' be?

Part of my dream job would be to be here every day. Right now I work the physical therapy job to pay the mortgage and the bills.

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