What does it take to start a successful business on Vashon, and then keep it going strong for three decades?
Only a small handful of Island merchants know the answer to that question, and Donna Kellum, a energetic 64-year-old woman who owns and operates Frame of Mind, is one of them.
Her explanation, at first blush, seems simple.
“I just keep having fun,” said Kellum, who recently passed the 30-year mark for her bustling frame shop, located in a strip of businesses on Bank Road, just west of Vashon Highway.
But dig a bit deeper, and Kellum admits that the frame shop is more than mere fun for her. “It’s not just a business,” she said. “It’s a creative outlet.”
Kellum said that when she and her husband Bob Kellum moved to Vashon from Seattle and opened her shop in 1980, they were chasing a dream and a following the lure that has brought countless newcomers to the Island.
“We decided we wanted to live in a more rural area, but we didn’t want to commute,” she said.
Kellum had worked in frame shops for three years prior to the move.Opening her own shop became possible after her husband sold the tavern he owned in Seattle’s University District.
Kellum didn’t really have a business plan when she opened her shop’s doors.
“When I started I didn’t do any research,” she said. “If I had, it wouldn’t have made any sense. But we fell in love with the Island.”
Even so, she quickly realized her idea for a business had been a good one.
“It was a niche that needed to be filled,” she said. “This Island is full of artists and people who appreciate art.”
Over the years, Kellum said, she has framed so many pieces of art that she suspects her handiwork graces the homes of thousands of Islanders.
“People tell me, ‘my whole house is framed by you — you need to come over and see it,’” she said.
Frame of Mind offers customers several options, from custom frames to do-it-yourself options.
“I do have this ability to figure out something for everyone, even when they are on a budget,” Kellum said.
Kellum said the years have brought challenges to her business, the most notable when her son, Nate, was born 23 years ago, when Kellum was 40.
“We had a little nursery in the back of the shop, and I had to decide whether to help customers or change his diaper,” she said with a laugh.
Nate is grown now and serving in the army in Afghanistan. Her husband Bob, a well-known Island contractor, is semi-retired, but Kellum’s business is still going strong, despite a recent downtown in the economy that forced her to lay off two employees.
Business is “definitely not like it used to be,” Kellum said, but she added that lately, foot traffic in her shop has picked up some.
On a recent morning, Kellum welcomed a customer to her well-appointed shop, as sunlight streamed in the windows and the guitar riffs of Eric Clapton played on an oldies radio station.
“I love the color — that’s going to be so fun,” she said, as she helped the woman with a do-it-yourself framing project on a large table at the front of the shop.
After her customer departed, with a neatly framed artwork tucked under her arm, Kellum revealed one of the secrets of her success as a businesswoman on Vashon.
“I’m a pleaser,” she said. “I want to make sure everyone is happy.”
Another one of her characteristics, she said, is pure tenacity. “I don’t change very well,” she said. “I hold on no matter what.”
Frame of Mind, located at 9926 S.W. Bank Road, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. Contact the shop at 463-3933 or email@example.com.