Local small business thrives on loyalty, filling a niche
As the Blair County Chamber undertakes the task of promoting local buying through the “Buy Here. Live Here” program, one small business has already put strategies in place to give customers fewer reasons for buying anywhere else.
Franklin Frames, located at 911 Logan Boulevard in Altoona, has evolved during the past several years from its much larger predecessor – Ben Franklin Crafts – into a specialized destination for those with framing needs. In a market populated by high-volume companies like A.C. Moore and Hobby Lobby, Franklin Frames is not foolish enough to go toe-to-toe with the big guys.
“Expertise and craftsmanship is what we offer,” explained Gary Hillard, who has managed the store for the past several years. “We stand behind everything we do and we do the type of specialty services that others don’t. So much of our stuff is custom made. That’s our niche and it has served us well.”
As practically a one-man-show, Hillard is no different from other small business proprietors who balance multiple tasks. He generally works 12-16 hours a day and that doesn’t count many of the clerical responsibilities that he performs at home.
“It’s tough when you’re the person who builds the product but also the person who waits on the customers,” Hillard pointed out. “But really, there’s no other way. The customer service aspect is incredibly important and people tell us how much they appreciate how attentive we are to that. That’s a big reason why they come back.”
A number of those customers come from outside the area but the major marketing emphasis for Hillard and his company is the local consumer. That’s why he considers Buy Here. Live Here so attractive.
“It’s discouraging to have people leave the area to shop because they think that the quality and price are better elsewhere,” Hillard acknowledged. “For instance, we feature a cross-section of antique picture framing and antique furniture. We do things with veneer that others just don’t do. And our prices are generally lower. Couple that with the fact that we hire local people and pay local taxes. Is it too much to expect some degree of loyalty?
Like many local businesses, Franklin Frames also gives back to help make the Blair County community strong.
“We donate to local charities as much as we can,” Hillard admitted. “Often it’s products for door prizes to organizations trying to raise money. We also try to help local artists to defray their costs because we know that their impact on the community is important.
“And we’re members of The Chamber. That’s another important way that we invest in what’s happening here.”