By Reeve Washburn, Art Walk Coordinator
When I walked into Northwest Art & Frame, Dan Reiner was at a work table, gluing together a frame. This hands-on business owner – since 1969, when he bought the business from Hi-Yu Arts & Crafts – got his start there as a part-time framer in the mid sixties. Given how much the Junction is changing these days, it was both fascinating and encouraging to learn the history of this iconic West Seattle business and how it is thriving. Dan Reiner is a link to West Seattle’s past and is very engaged in its future.
Yesterday + Today
Northwest Art & Frame has one of the largest original store fronts on California Ave SW, and very enticing window displays – I always think of it as a creative person’s candy shop. The space was formerly occupied by True Value Hardware, and Dan acquired shops to the north and south to house the framing workshop, offices and storerooms. Retail runs in Dan’s blood – it’s what he knows and does well – and his vision is to succeed. Not without some trial and error, of course: he’s been able to build by bringing in what works. Most West Seattle residents are familiar with the extensive greeting card selection, which Dan says is how so many shoppers are introduced to the store. He recalled when he decided to bring in a single rack of $.85 cards back in 1990. They sold immediately, so he doubled his order, and continued to grow cards into today’s signature offering. Dan was sure that the internet would negatively impact his card business, but has been favorably surprised with constant, if not increasing, sales.
“It’s the human connection that people want. They enjoy the experience of looking through hundreds of cards for just the right one.” Dan Reiner, Owner, Northwest Art & Frame
Trends Built on a Solid Foundation
Just as Northwest Art & Frame is on the leading edge of retail trends – where else will you buy your sassy socks, PNW swag or calligraphy guides? – they are also a stalwart provider of high quality goods and services. They cater to serious artists, with 26-year store veteran Art Manager Chris Costan there to help with any questions about supplies. They also have five full-time framers (which tells you a lot about sales volume), including Jen Shwanitz who has worked in the frame shop for 28 years.
All this is inspired by Dan’s vision for staying relevant for our community. He observes that new Junction residents like to stroll in the evenings, before or after taking in a meal or a performance at ArtsWest. He keeps Northwest Art and Frame open every night until 9pm for passersby or last-minute school project needs.
Silent (but Vibrant) Partner
Northwest Art & Frame is an Art Walk Partner, but doesn’t exhibit like other businesses throughout West Seattle. According to Dan, they tried to put on a show years ago, but there was too much visual competition with the retail displays. Instead, they put out appetizers for customers on Art Walk night to help make the experience more festive. With the support of Partners like Dan and his business, the Art Walk is able to fund ongoing programming, artist education and workshops and community outreach collateral. It’s good for local business and local artists.
Dan thinks Art Walk is “fantastic.” In his opinion, artists need exposure and shouldn’t have to enter into a consignment arrangement with a gallery just to get their work shown. With the monthly debut of new art, service businesses can beautify the walls of their offices, and people can come out to meet new friends or bump into neighbors. Dan say it’s a wonderful way to bring creativity into our lives, while keeping connections with our community strong. Which pretty much sums up Northwest Art & Frame’s contribution to everyone in West Seattle.
You can learn more about Northwest Art & Frame on their Website, Instagram or Facebook pages. You can contact Dan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 206.937.5507. You can read more Business Spotlights on our West Seattle Art Walk blog: Inner Alchemy and The Office of Rebecca Mitsui.