A signature business

When local artist Bea Cury-Petroski got the phone call in April 1993, she was disappointed to learn that her preferred vendor was closing its doors.

But while most customers would merely wish the owner well and seek another source, Cury-Petroski decided to buy Signature Frame Gallery at 297 N. Main St. in Munroe Falls.

“I’d never thought about running my own business until the owner called and asked if I’d be interested in taking over her store,” she says. “Now, here I still am, after increasing the customer list from 250 to 1,500.”

Cury-Petroski successfully transitioned from artist to entrepreneur because Signature Frame was a perfect fit for her. Bolstered by experience as a personnel manager for a retail store and as a business manager for a psychology practice, she focused on personalized service and quality product to make the store successful.

“I think my artistic background gives me a better visual of how a framing project could best complement the customer’s style and furnishings. And being able to add the artist touch gives my customers something extra for their money, whether it’s painting on a mat, special cut-out designs or some other artistic effect,” she says.

As a small operation competing with the big discounter outlets, Cury-Petroski doesn’t want to be known as a discount framer, even though her prices are commendably competitive. Instead, she prefers being known as the artist who takes that hands-on approach to wow her customers.

“The greatest satisfaction is when a customer sees their picture framed and says, ‘Oh, wow!'” she says.

Serving a customer base made up of 30 percent repeat business, 30 percent referrals and 40 percent new business, Cury-Petroski is extremely particular about how a piece goes out of the shop.

“If I see one flaw, I think to myself, ‘Would I hang that in my house?’ If not, I’ll do it over,” she says.

She also distinguishes Signature Frame by featuring limited edition art and works by local artists and photographers. These are additional draws for customers — primarily business professionals and homemakers — who rely on her for quality products and fair prices they can’t get from big-name discounters.

“When someone says you’re getting 50 percent off a frame, do you really believe that?” Curry-Petroski asks. “They’d be losing money across the board if they did that, so believe me, that frame is marked up too high in the first place. Besides, you can go to Montgomery Wards and get something for 30 percent off, but they’re going out of business!”

Reflecting on the economic downturn partially responsible for the recent demise of big-name stores, Cury-Petroski says it’s worrisome when companies such as Home Place in Chapel Hill and Ames on Arlington Road close their doors. But a change in the economy can boost business for some companies.

“In my case, when people can’t buy that new living room furniture they want, they’ll decide to frame a nice piece of art instead,” she says.

And despite economic conditions, customers always want personalized service, quality product and fair prices, she says. The supplier who provides all three will most likely survive.

“I look around and I’m not slowing down at all. In fact, I’m busier than ever,” she says.

“So I’m not worried, because my goal is to make my customers happy, and I’m doing that.” How to reach: Signature Frame Gallery (330) 686-9974