The online custom framing company launches its first brick and mortar on 14th Street today.
Within five minutes of touring Framebridge’s first retail store on 14th Street with Washington-based CEO and founder Susan Tynan, two passerbys popped in to welcome the custom framing business to the neighborhood. One of the visitors, Tyler Duke, expressed heartfelt gratitude for his experience working with the direct-to-consumer company on his first solo photography exhibition. “I’ve had the most exceptional experience with your team,” he told Tynan, before extending an invitation to the exhibit’s opening party, to which she offered up her email address without hesitation.
Duke’s well-timed drop in speaks to the customers who Tynan says inspire her on a daily basis. “When the world or the news can get you down, I think ‘no I know people are good because I see what they’re framing,’’’ she says with a laugh.
Tynan founded the company in 2014 after identifying a “dusty attic” category that needed disruption. Until now, it has operated fully online, providing customers the ability to choose a frame style then either upload or mail their art to be custom framed at the company’s production facility in Kentucky. Tynan was inspired to start the business after having a long, negative experience in an overpriced custom frame shop. “We think of it as a really active category because people frame things they just did,” she explains. “It’s such a positive, even youthful category to us, that had just been presented in such an uninspiring way.” Since the idea came to fruition, Framebridge has raised more than $67 million in funding including a series C round last summer that banked them $30 million.
Tynan explains that the same philosophy from online applies the in-store experience – simply put: “We want the store to represent what we stand for, which is making it easy for people to custom frame things they love.” After testing out a pop-up shop in Union Market, they found that some first-time users preferred having an initial face-to-face experience in a retail environment before interacting online. The store allows customers to easily size and price frames, and peruse all of Framebridge’s frame options, which are on display along with examples of best sellers and other pieces of inspiration to help ease the decision-making process.
The retail space honors the stories behind the frames with a crowdsourced gallery wall that will rotate quarterly based on different themes. Up now is a selection of meaningful D.C.-related artifacts on loan from Washingtonians, including the printing plate from the Washington Post the day after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup and a pair of VIP tickets granting early access to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In the store’s retro-style recording booth(constructed with one of Framebridge’s best-selling frames, of course), customers can create minute-long sound bytes about what they’re framing and why it’s special to them.
“The way I get my energy back is to look at what people are framing.” Tynan says. “I’m truly always amazed.”
Framebridge, 1919 14th St NW M-F 11am-8pm, Sat. 10am – 8pm, Sun. 10am – 7pm, 202-831-0444