Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Bowman's Framing Turns 29

Fort Thomas native and business owner Ken Bowman has been active in community service for 20 years with organizations such as Fort Thomas Forward, the Renaissance Board and Midway There. He has served on city council for the last five years. Ken Bowman photo
Twenty-nine years ago, Ken Bowman walked into Fort Thomas Bellevue Bank. With his word and a handshake, the bank's president, Chester Racke loaned Bowman $8000. It was with that loan that he was able to attend the going out of business auction of Art Publishers, a retail and wholesale frame business owned by his grandfather, J. Julian Bowman.

Art Publishers, located in downtown Cincinnati had served the art world from 1937 to 1988. Bowman worked for his grandfather for five years learning the business. After Julian's retirement in 1988, Bowman was encouraged by Art Publishers' clients Betty Pogue, then owner of Pogue's Gallery in Fort Thomas and Fort Thomas artist Beverly Erschell to open his own business.

That is what he did. He took the money and was able to purchase start-up equipment and inventory from the auction. Bud Pogue leased Bowman a small space in the back of two buildings between Audubon Place and Highland Avenue.

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And, Bowman's Backdoor Framing was born.

Bowman's Backdoor Framing's original location at 11 S. Ft. Thomas Ave. FTM file
For the next 10 years in that location, Bowman worked with several area art galleries, framing art, doing wholesale business and serving our community with their framing needs.

In the basement days, as Bowman calls them, he we was lucky enough to secure a contract to frame for all of the Cooker Bar & Grille locations - 85 stores scattered through the Midwest with roughly 115 pictures in each store. Bowman's would frame and deliver to all the locations. Now out of business, Cooker Bar & Grille was the opportunity Bowman needed to expand his business and afford him the ability to buy his current location in 1998 in the middle of town.

Bowman's Framing's current location at 108 N. Ft. Thomas Ave. Ken Bowman photo
The three-story home not only gave him more room to move and work, he was able to  have a gallery that today features works by several talented artists including Beverly ErschellJoanne Honschopp and Robert Fabe.

In addition to framing and selling art, Bowman also continues to do work with local art galleries like Jack Wood Gallery in Cincinnati, framing vintage posters. He also works closely with Robin Imaging Services, a Cincinnati photo lab. Bowman's Framing services go beyond general framing with building custom mirrors, minor restoration and onsite installations and consultations.

"I think that our experience and level of design sense has improved over the years. The on- street store front has given us more visibility, and with that came increased business compared to the basement location which totally depended on word of mouth and commercial contracts. We are also now better able to function as a gallery," said Bowman.

Art by several artists is displayed and sold in the gallery at Bowman's Framing. Ken Bowman photo
Today, Bowman's Framing - no longer applicable, the "backdoor" got dropped - has three employees, all of which have been with Bowman for more than 12 years.

Bob Allen, a theater professor at NKU is his frame builder and specializes in frame restoration; Bev Ulbricht works on finishing mattes, installing glass and other meticulous details that go into the finished product; and his designer and key assistant, Julia Williams, does everything aside of building frames. Bowman says their tastes compliment one another, and she has excellent design sense.

"I greatly appreciate the trust that our customers put in us, not only in making the right choices, but also in handling and preserving what is often very important or valuable to them, Bowman added.

We have worked very hard to earn that trust. I enjoy what I do. A lot of it involves problem solving as well as aesthetic considerations.

I have learned that it takes a lot of serious commitment to last in this small business world with great customer service, quality for the price and always actually being open during the advertised hours of operation. Six day per week retail is a pretty huge commitment, but people won't come to your business because they think you might be open. They need to know that you are open."

As far as the future, Bowman says he hopes to involve someone that would like to learn the business and continue operating Bowman's, serving the needs of the community for years to come.

"I would eventually like to come across the right individual that would have the passion for the industry, and want to take ownership," he said.

Stay tuned what the next 29 years have in store for Bowman's Framing.

Happy Anniversary!

1 comment:

  1. Hard to believe it's been 29 years! Congrats to THE best framing shop...