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Mary Lou Faas, store manager, Ruth's Hallmark, Bear, Del. All the Ruth’s Hallmark stores have designated frame departments, but special displays are made to commemorate notable calendar dates.

hanks to smart phones, people take a lot of photographs these days. While many of those photos will never move beyond their digitized state, on occasion, actual images do get printed onto real photo paper. If people are going to go to the trouble, it follows they’re going to want unique frames to immortalize those images.

Richard Serata co-owns sixteen Hallmark stores along with his brother. The stores are all conveniently called Ruth’s Hallmark and are mostly concentrated in southern New Jersey, with a couple in Pennsylvania and two more in Delaware. Serata said they do a big business with Malden frames, although not so much the traditional variety. “Sentiment is important to our customers so most of the Malden frames we carry do have sentiment on them. It can be as simple as Mom or Dad or Sister imprinted on the frame but having some kind of sentiment on there adds a great deal of value to our customers,“ he said. “Traditional frames can be purchased in all the big box stores. But having a selection of sentiment frames is something a little different, given that we’re specialty and people are coming into our stores for sentiment product.“

All the various Ruth’s Hallmark stores have designated frame departments but during special seasons, staff take care to pull forward whatever captions and frames pertain to notable dates on the calendar. They’ll make a special display surrounding Mother’s Day, for example, or Valentine’s Day. That’s when the sentiment frames’ popularity really becomes evident, according to Serata. “They’re perfect for all the different seasons that people come to us for. Whether you’re getting something for your mother, an aunt, your father, a sweetheart. We’re a big seasonal business and people usually come in seeking that type of product,“ he said.

Pine Ridge Gift Shop in Kabetogama, Minn., caters strictly to tourists who visit this popular north woods vacation spot on a lake which bears the same name. The 1500-square-foot shop inhabits a log cabin which seems apropos although its inventory has changed to keep pace with customers’ whims. “We’ve been in business almost 18 years,“ said Owner Mary Tomczak. “Everything was north woods-related when we first opened but as times have changed and Cabin Chic and different trends have become popular, now we have more of an eclectic inventory.“ When it comes to frames though, she’s noticed customers tend to stick with the tried and true. They mainly select ones personalized with the Lake Kabetogama name on them in some way, shape or form.

“People come in while on vacation and they want something to remind them of their trip or the big fish they caught,“ said Tomczak. Frames bearing the sentiment “Memories are Made at Lake Kabetogama“ rate among the most popular. “Families come up here year after year on vacation. We have some that have been coming for 40 years.“ So Pine Ridge Gift Shop makes a point of always having a nice selection of Lake Kabetogama personalized frames readily on display. For customers seeking something representing the north woods area in general, Tomczak offers frames that feature bears, moose, walleye, loons and other local wildlife.

Shannon Allman sells a lot of frames in her Heart’s Desire Gift Shop in Seymour, Ind. With over 5,000-square-feet of retail space out over three stories, she has plenty of room to do so. Allman finds she has the most success selling frames that are customized in some manner – whether they’re painted or coated with vinyl or emblematic of whatever new trend is up and coming. “Right now the primitive look is in. Burlap and wood and other textures like that,“ Allman said. Heart’s Desire currently has frames that feature 3-D burlap flowers or burlap bows attached to one corner or maybe all four corners, depending on the design.

Frame sales might get a boost from smart phones and all that photo snapping but the same device delivers the ubiquitous text message and, it could be said, a lessening need for writing instruments. Which may be why the preceding stores don’t carry much in the way of pens and other fine writing tools. That’s not to say pens aren’t still around. People still need to sign things and for many individuals, nothing beats the creative energy that flows from pen to paper.

It’s why longtime establishments like Boston’s Bromfield Pen Shop in Bromfield, Mass., continue to thrive. The 700-square foot stores features over 40 brands of pens from inexpensive everyday pens to rare collectibles and premium fountain pens. In order to sell more writing instruments, Owner Fred Rosenthal said it helps to have a very knowledgeable staff. “The people I have now have all been here more than 10 years. So they have a lot of experience with the product. And they were trained by the people who came before them,“ he said.

At Bromfield Pen Shop, there is always paper and ink available for customers to try out the various writing instruments and to get the feel of them in their hand. “We also have lots of pen refills,“ said Rosenthal. “If a customer likes the look of a pen but they don’t like the way it writes particularly, we might have something else we can put inside it that would make it write a little differently.“ There’s a solution for customer facing a similar dilemma with fountain pens as well. “Sometimes if you have the same model pen from a manufacturer and have a fine in one color and a medium in the other color, a lot of times you can switch the nibs. Let’s say you have a blue one and it’s a medium nib and they want a black one with a fine nib, the answer is right there. Sometimes the switch is easy, sometimes it requires a technician.“ Luckily, Bromfield has a full-time technician on the premises.

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