Madison’s Wall Street Gallery knows what it’s doing; they have, after all, been doing it since 1974. With goals that are both modest and lofty – to stand above their competitors and be recognized as a preeminent mom and pop venture – the WSG seems to have built its reputation on a number of principles: employing a fun and friendly staff, having solid product knowledge, and, perhaps most notably, being able to offer its customers the widest variety of frames and mattes around.
The idea of vast customer choice is the most fundamental aspect to the Wall Street Gallery. The warm, inviting space, with its ideal location on the corner of Bradley and Wall Street in downtown Madison, boasts a knowledgeable sales staff who know it’s their selection that sets them apart from not only other retail vendors, but what might be their stiffest competition: the internet.
“It’s true that people are doing a lot of their frame shopping online these days,” says owner Jim Reinhart with hardly a trace of resignation in his voice. “There’s no denying the convenience of it. That’s for sure. At the same time, you miss out on so much variety that the internet simply cannot and does not provide. That’s where we come in.”
It’s true. The WSG has a nearly overwhelming supply of some of the most eclectic and artistic frames and mattes on the shoreline. Some frames are made from traditional moldings, while others derive from lumberyard scraps. There are culturally diverse frames like the ones that stem from Japanese woodworking, as well as more whimsical ones like the Router Madness Series that are, quite simply, made with routers.
“This is sort of our de facto philosophy here at the Wall Street Gallery,” Reinhart say, pointing at a framed image of two simple words: MAKE MISTAKES. “We believe in serendipity to achieve aesthetically beautiful artwork and frames. So we’ll try anything to that end. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. What you see before you are the occasions when it’s worked.”
To make it work, Reinhart scours the internet looking for the most esoteric and interesting materials out of which to fashion frames. He doesn’t care what it is or where it’s from, just as long as it has the potential to offer his customers more in the way of choice. And with a woodworking shop on site at his Madison location, the leg work is either done by or overseen by Reinhart himself.
“Our customers have diverse needs,” he says, “to frame an expensive painting recently acquired at a gallery, or maybe an old map or movie poster. We’ve framed things as diverse as seashells to paintbrushes to graduation diplomas. And we do it all with the same kind of care and eye for what will fit the buyer’s design sensibilities.”
With a forty-plus-year history, not to mention prestigious national framing awards under their belts, the WSG is a staple of not only the town of Madison, but of the local art scene as well. Just ask local artists, collectors, and patrons where they go to make an already lovely image lovelier and they’ll likely tell you the ever-thriving ma and pa frame store on 91 Wall Street in downtown Madison.