Just past the Ithaca Commons stands a pine green house. When patrons walk in, they are greeted with scents of sawdust and wood glue. Colorful picture frames line the walls of the entryway, displaying the endless options available. Folk music accompanies the chorus of craftsmen, their saws and chisels busy at work. Welcome to The Frame Shop.
After many years of business at 414 W. Buffalo St., The Frame Shop is celebrating its 35th anniversary of ownership by the Russell family. Throughout its 35-year history, The Frame Shop has offered quality framing services to the greater Ithaca community.
“Helping our customers protect, preserve and beautifully display their memories,” The Frame Shop offers a wide range of services, framing many kinds of art and media, including original works, maps, newspaper articles and puzzles. According to their website, they can frame “about anything you can think of!”
We had “somebody [come in] who had had a hysterectomy, so it was a knitted woman’s reproductive system that we put into a shadow box,” said Emily Russell, the owner of The Frame Shop. “People have brought in unique fossils that are very fragile that if they got bumped could break in half.”
414 W. Buffalo St. has been home to many businesses before The Frame Shop. The current house, built in the late 1800s, was initially occupied by a shoe store. In the early 1900s, a grocery store called Albert Huff’s Groceries operated out of this space. It eventually became The Frame Shop after Hugh and Adele Cheney bought the store around 1956, according to their website.
Nancy Russell began to work at The Frame Shop in 1986, where she learned the art of framing under the Cheneys. She bought the building from them in 1988 following their retirement. In 2004, Emily Russell joined the business under her mother’s leadership.
“Next year will be 20 years. I joined my mom, and then I eventually bought it from her,” Emily Russell said. “I do mostly the business pieces, not really the hands-on framing, so I’m doing all the PR, marketing, HR and everything you do when running a business. We have five other employees here. Almost everybody has been here for over eight years.”
The Frame Shop is a member of many organizations, including Local First Ithaca, the Professional Picture Framers Association and the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce. It also identifies as a Living Wage Employer and an Empire State Development Minority/Woman-Owned Business Enterprise.
“We have a pretty strong reputation in the community. People know us,” Emily Russell said. We are one of the few frame shops. We have seen lots of frame shops come and go. Probably at one point, there had to be 10 frame shops in Ithaca.”
Emily Russell explained that with limited options for framing services in Ithaca, many artists and students use The Frame Shop to frame their works. To incentivize their patronage, The Frame Shop offers discounts for these artisans.
“For artists who are going to show their work or resell their work, we do offer a 20 percent discount, so we do get a lot of calls from students at Cornell from the architecture program who are about to do one of their shows,” Emily Russell said.
While The Frame Shop holds robust sets of regular customers among Ithacans and Cornellians alike, the store remains eager to welcome new shoppers.
“We welcome anybody and everybody to The Frame Shop,” Emily Russell said.
Jack Grossman ’27 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].