When a longtime business in the neighborhood closes forever – and it seems as if there have been quite a few of those lately – It's almost like losing a relative or a close friend.
After 16, years Rob and Cathy Blakeslee, owners of the Moreland Frameworks, have closed their business next to West Moreland Ace Hardware. While sixteen years may not seem like a long time to those of us who've ever shopped there, it seems as if they have always been part of Westmorland.
The shop's big draws were the ornate metalwork over the front entrance, and a cherry-tree-branch door handle that came from the Blakeslee's own front yard. Most of the children visiting the store at first hesitated to touch the curved door handle because it reminded them of a snake, explained Cathy. The handcrafted metalwork was created by Drake Dreyman, an artistic metal designer with whom Cathy placed a special order.
Moreland Frameworks was established in 1999, when Cathy retired after working 18 years as a 9-1-1 emergency operator in Washington County. She was in need of a creative outlet for her artistic background. "I was looking to retire," reflected Cathy, "but I just couldn't retire." Using her experience and background in art, in her store Cathy has framed many paintings, photos, and family heirlooms that will be cherished for years.
One of Cathy's most anxious moments was when a customer asked her to frame an original and expensive Rembrandt etching, "I had to call my insurance company right away to see if we were covered in case anything happened to the artwork." No worries – the order was completed to the customer's satisfaction.
Cathy worked solo at the frame shop while her husband was off touring with his jazz band in New York, California, and points in Europe. Since he was 18, Rob has been a top-flight jazz trumpet player. Rob explains that the live music industry changed drastically when the digital age arrived. While Jazz has always been a popular medium in Portland, the new generation of music seemed more interested in supporting loud and crowded pop concerts, he says. Most jazz groups are now usually heard in small night clubs and venues around town.
Discouraged about the declining support for the jazz, Rob decided to join his wife at the frame shop. It was a perfect fit for both of them. Cathy and Rob could usually be found sitting around a large cutting table where most of their framing work was done. It seemed like walking into the middle of a toy shop where two workers are busy building and creating toys just for enjoyment. You'd get a small glimpse of the special projects they were working on, and the beautiful frames they were crafting around a painting or photo before them. As Rob reflects, "We liked to be known for creating conversation pieces for all of our customers."
Cathy and Rob say they have always believed in giving back to the community, including holding various art shows and workshops at the store, supporting art projects for local schoolchildren, and donating time and supplies to many charities.
They pair were generous in replacing, updating, and rejuvenating many old frames with historic photos in them that the SMILE History Committee brought in.
So what does the future hold for two people who have now retired and closed their shop, after spending close to two decades of their life creating conversation pieces for others? Rob says he wants to contribute some time to a reading program for young children, or volunteer at a school.
And Cathy wants to delve into oil painting, a passion in which she has always wanted to indulge. If she does, she will certainly be able to provide a handsome frame for each of her works.