EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.
What do you do and how long have you been doing it?
Dan Ebert: We sell art supplies and do custom framing. We've owned the business for 10 years and I bought it from my father, who started it back in the late 1960s in Coos Bay. He brought it to Medford in 1981 and moved to this location in 1985.
How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley?
I moved over from Coos Bay in 1981 with my parents. Ann moved here from Springfield when we got married in 1988.
What inspired you to go into this line of work?
It's been a family business; I've always been part of it. I had the picture-framing part of the business and when we started a family I sold the picture-framing part of the business and went to work for UPS. Then in 1998, my dad George retired and we bought the business.
What decision or action would you change if you could do it again?
When I had the opportunity to buy some more property next to the business five years ago I should have done it. I have 7,000 square feet, but I need more room.
What's the toughest business decision you've made?
I grew up doing a lot of custom framing, but I couldn't see me doing the custom framing and run the art supply part of the business. They both take a lot of time and I couldn't see one person doing both. Later, I knew a custom framer who was out of work and we hired her. That's when we started the framing back up in about 2002. It's very labor intensive, there has to be some oversight to put good quality stuff out.
Who are your competitors?
Michael's and the Internet. There were a couple little places around in Grants Pass and Ashland, but they kind of come and go; so I don't worry a whole lot about them.
What are your goals?
Before computers, we sold mostly graphics stuff. People making ads used art markers and paste-on letters. Advertising agencies and commercial artists were 60 percent of our business and drafting supplies were a big part of the business. When computers came along, that all dissolved. My parents made the changeover into a speciality art store, what it is today. Art is still evolving and the biggest challenge is to see where it's going. That's why we're trying to get our Internet site up.
This business has kind of made itself a clearing house of sorts for art information. They'll be shopping and meet up with someone they haven't seen for a while and have an art conversation. My goal is to see art cross demographics. I believe everyone is an artist, some are just more creative than others. I had an 18-year-old boy in here who was working on a form of art that uses wax and a lady was in her 70s. He had tattoos and she was dressed conservatively, it was fun to watch them talk 20 minutes and see how art bridged that gap.
In trying to get more people involved, I'd like to have more classroom space and more for custom-framing. It's been a growing business. For the last 10 years, we've grown very well. With a little more space we could've grown even more. Our shipping and receiving area is pretty small and we get on top of each other when shipments arrive.
What training or education did you need?
I've got a bachelor's from Southern Oregon in accounting which helps in the business side. The art side is really just experience and being part of the art community. A lot is being there and asking questions. Even today, when I hire an employee it takes a good six months to learn what's in the store. There's so much there and so much information to learn. In art, there are no real boundaries and people are coming in trying to do a something different and looking for product that will facilitate what they're trying to do. Basically, we match up products to their needs.
What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs?
The biggest advice is to prepare for the future. Don't get too comfortable when you are starting to make a profit and spend it all. Keep it in reserve so when hard times come you have something to fall back on. The biggest thing I learned from my parents was to be fiscally conservative. You can have high hopes, but don't stretch yourself too thin. I've watched galleries that were successful, but they didn't change with the times and it deteriorated to where they sold it and it went away. You've got to be willing to change and keep up with the times.
To suggest an idea for this column, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org