|Cyrus Colquitt, second from right, and staff at The Framing Salon|
Congratulations on your new shop, The Framing Salon, at 10 Dartmouth Road. How long have you been open? It’s all very new. We opened in July 2014.
Are you new to retail? No. I also jointly own Stag & Bow, a haberdashery and craft shop, with my partner Pascale. But when this charming little shop at number 10, next door to the Stag & Bow, became available it was an opportunity not to be missed, giving me the chance to upscale our existing framing business.
Why did you choose retail as your business? At one family Christmas, when giving out our handmade presents, Pascale’s father quipped: “you should open a shop”. It played on our minds and Stag & Bow was born. It made perfect sense to bring together our skills and histories, and we were looking for a way to manifest them. Having both grown up in SE23 and been excited about the regeneration of Forest Hill, we had eyed up number 8 Dartmouth Road for some time. Fortuitously, when we went to view it, the landlords were very keen for us to take it.
Why did you decide to specialise in picture framing? We felt the framing married well with all that was Stag & Bow, at the same time bringing together many of my skills and passions. Having always framed our own work, we inherited some amazing equipment and, after training in the subtleties of conservation framing, we were off!
While Stag & Bow has a fabulous website, is that right there seems to be very little information online about the Framing Salon - not even a website? Yes, you are right. We have not marketed or launched the Framing Salon in the conventional way. Part of that is because I have been focusing on setting up the shop and employing people, and I also still have responsibilities within Stag & Bow. Although, after two years of framing within Stag & Bow, the service had considerable awareness locally. Interestingly, I’m pleased to say, we have been very busy with lots of orders with only our beautiful frontage and interior promoting us. But, rest assured, I am developing a website!
Why did you decide to start your businesses in Forest Hill? Pascale and I both grew up in Forest Hill. Although we moved away in the in-between years, we were drawn back here. We loved the area, we lived in Forest Hill, and our children went to local schools - so it was the obvious location for work.
Whom do you employ? I was very lucky to find Flynn, an artist who brought with him plenty of experience and a keen eye for detail, after he worked at Honor Oak’s picture framers until the landlord pulled the plug. We also have Emi, a very promising apprentice who is also an artist and ex-Sydenham School pupil. So, we are a very creative and local team.
10 Dartmouth Road is tiny. How do you manage in such a limited space? Yes, it is small, but we all fit in. Having designed and built everything myself, it functions very well and is a lovely space to work in - I look forward to getting there every morning! Now that the workshop is in full production, the next phase of the project is to start having art exhibitions, too, with mid-range prints for sale as well as the time-honoured rarities we already have for sale in our print browser. I am extremely excited about the gallery element and have a list of amazing artists who I shall be showing, cutting my teeth in the ‘art game’ before looking for another space in Forest Hill to show work - I like the look of the recruitment office next door to the old Blue Mountain!
Do you have a background in woodworking? Yes. I had pretty much of an apprenticeship in traditional woodworking at the small ‘alternative’ school I went to, thinking I would make furniture forever, but then life happened! I went on to study sculpture at Camberwell College of Art and, more recently, I taught Design and Technology at Bacon’s College in Rotherhithe. My woodworking skills also came in very useful when fitting out our Stag & Bow shop. However, whilst establishing the business, I needed to work; so I continued with my own business, designing bespoke furniture and taking on other commissions.
Are you involved in the Forest Hill Traders’ Association? Yes, I am, and they are a very committed group of retailers who are passionate about Forest Hill’s town centre and want the best for Forest Hill. They employ lots of local people as well as run successful businesses. It’s a large group and not everyone agrees with everything but it is important that the Forest Hill traders have a voice. The successful SEE3 initiatives and subsequent new businesses have brought a new dimension and added value to the well-established, successful retail businesses in Forest Hill.
What advice would you give to other retailers in Forest Hill? I am a real fan of shop-window dressing. I am very proud of the Stag & Bow window displays, which we regularly change to make passers-by curious and want to come inside! I also think the external shop frontage and signage is worth investing in. A number of shops in the high street have benefited from the upgrading of their shop fronts and it all helps to make Forest Hill look smarter and less run down. I am a firm believer in old-fashioned customer care - making customers feel welcome and providing an honest, quality service.