Over the years, Rick Mann has framed fiddles, swords, handguns, teeth, baby shoes and even an umbilical cord.
Business is never dull at Frame It Now, his custom frame shop at 113 Old Evans Road. Mann’s shop, which specializes in golf and military prints, has been in business for more than 25 years.
“I was told by someone in the business years ago that I needed to be known for something. We actually have a room that is dedicated to golf,” Mann said.
An engineer by trade, Mann worked for Fluor Daniel and then moved to Augusta to work at Plant Vogtle. Business at the plant was slowing down, and he decided to take a chance and quit his job right before Christmas in 1986 to take advantage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
He applied to withdraw funds from his profit sharing plan with no penalty, and, along with $10,000 from his grandmother, Mann started a do-it-yourself frame shop.
“When I moved here, I was looking for a do-it-yourself frame shop, and I was having to go to Columbia to do it,” Mann said.
He was inspired by the do-it-yourself shops he visited to frame his personal photography. Mann opened Frame It Now on Washington Road and moved to Old Evans Road about 12 years later.
When he got started, Mann attended a one-week framing school, read books about business and framing and hired two employees with experience. Frame It Now remained a do-it-yourself shop for about four years, but the demand for custom work increased and left little time to assist do-it-yourself customers.
Mann said that he once framed a letter signed by president Abraham Lincoln, asking Congress to meet the next day. He has also framed Bibles, autographed photos of famous golfers, military medals, baseballs and Civil War relics, he said.
His biggest job was $18,000 for a fast food chain throughout the Southeast.
“I get to see all kinds of stuff. Some of the things I get to handle is just phenomenal,” he said.
While many big box stores use plastic polystyrene and MDF fiberboard frames with thin glass that offer no UV protection, Frame It Now uses quality, inexpensive frames, mostly wooden and some metal, and higher-end Italian lines.
“I buy molding in large quantities at a discounted price, so I’m able to pass those discounts on to the customers,” he said.
Frame It Now uses conservation materials to preserve framed pieces. Mann believes in the quality of his work, so he puts the name of his business on the back of every completed piece.
“I’ve taken pieces apart that have been done by other frame shops, and I’ve been appalled at how other shops have done these pieces,” he said. “Some are not up to my standards, and we fix that, sometimes at no extra cost to the customer. I don’t believe in nickle and diming customers. Quality can be given at a reasonable price.”
To keep his costs low, Mann has reduced his staff over the years and works longer hours and Saturdays. He has one full-time employee, Becky Rowland, who has worked for him for 13 years.
Technology has become an integral part of the business.
He has a computerized mat cutter, which saves time and energy.
“I can do all kinds of different things” he said. “It’s a neat piece of equipment. I couldn’t do it without it.”
Even when Mann retires, he said he plans to restore antique frames.
“This is a job that I thoroughly enjoy coming to work every single day. I’ll never leave this industry,” he said.