An Introduction to a Neighborhood Business
A year or so ago, I was in a hurry to frame a picture I was going to be giving as a gift, and rather than drive down to Midway and Rosecrans to either Michael’s or Aaron Bros. I decided to stop in at John Bakers Picture Frames on Point Loma Avenue. I am embarrassed to say that in the 36+ years I have lived around the corner, I had never been in the store. I was amazed at the selection he offered his customers. Perhaps one of the things I liked the best was that “Murph” – his dog – greeted me at the door.
The next time I went in the shop I had some doggie biscuits with me, only to find that Murph had gone on to another place. And I found out that John had retired and the business had been purchased by an employee of his of over 14 years. Let me introduce you to Mary Maslanik.
I watched Mary work with a customer today while I waited for Chris Baker to complete a picture frame for me. (Yes, Chris is John’s son.) Mary worked with this woman – for almost an hour. The scene reminded me of a woman trying on shoes and not finding anything that she liked. Mary brought out all kinds of samples of matting, frames, etc. until there did not seem to be anything left in the front or back room.
When I asked her about it later she answered that “working with the memories of her customers is a rewarding business. People want to tell her about the meaning behind the picture; where it came from; history, etc. It acts to preserve mementos for many generations.” I would have lost my patience in talking to Mrs. E., but Mary didn’t seem to mind, and laughed with her many times.
Mary bought the business from John Baker on January 1, 2012. She was born in Colorado and owned her own Rock and Roll magazine in Denver. She had to take pictures for the magazine and that is where her love for the arts started. She has a permanent exhibit at the “Rock and Roll” Music School at 3360 Sports Arena Blvd. highlighting the famous musicians she has photographed over the years. (She also worked as a meat cutter but suffered a shoulder injury and that ended that career.)
When she was 30 – I didn’t ask how old she is now – she moved to Ocean Beach to the Cliff View apartments on Pt. Loma Avenue. One day, over a cup of coffee at the coffee shop near the store, she met John Baker. She asked him if he needed any help and he asked her if she could handle a 40” x 60” pane of glass. When she said “yes” he took her down to the shop and watched while she hoisted the glass he was speaking about. She was wearing a dress and he told her if she wanted the job she could not wear a dress, and, for 14 years after that first meeting, Mary continued to work with John.
It has not been easy for Mary. Last year she had a heart attack and almost died. The doctors are still trying to regulate hormones so that it doesn’t happen again, and it is a challenge. Suffice it to say that she thinks that being on birth control medication for too long is what triggered the problem.
When I asked her about the best part of her job, she said “being creative is a bonus.” Many of her customers want suggestions from her, and she takes extreme pleasure in finding something that is aesthetically pleasing to all. The worst part of the job is that she is tied down 24/7. (Except that recently, upon hiring Chris to work with her, she now only works 5 days a week.)
She said that one of the most exciting experiences she has had was when someone brought an original newspaper when President Lincoln was assassinated to be framed. The thrill of reading the original account and the excitement of feeling the paper was exhilarating.
When I asked her why I should go to her and not to the other two places over the hill, her answer is worthy of repeating. She said:
“ . . . We do framing right. We are not locked in to several sizes; we can make frames to fit any item brought in. After all, would you rather take your Picasso to one of the corporate stores when the training leaves something to be desired, or would you rather take it to me in that I have had extensive experience and training and have been working in the field for over 15 years.”
And I want to point out that she does all kinds of framing – not just custom framing. I took two pictures of some orchids I am growing and liked them so well I wanted to frame them. I took the two 8”x10” pictures to her and picked out the wooden frames I wanted. While I waited, Chris framed them; put glass in both; covered the back with paper; and added the hanging wire. The total cost? $29! And it is a professional job.
One may save a few bucks going to the other two places, but the service, the integrity and the personal concern will keep me at John Baker’s as long as Mary Maslanik is there.