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Still swinging: Golf Art reopens after blaze

 

Skip Rooney reopened his Frame Center and Golf Art on Route 7 after restoration and improvement of the building that was closed due to a December fire caused by electrical problems. —Jake Kara photo

Skip Rooney is out of the rough some eight months after a fire shuttered the longtime home of his Route 7 shop. With an interior makeover and a subtly refocused strategy, his business is, in some ways, better off for it.

“About 35 to 40% of my inventory — all of my framing equipment, I had to replace,” he said of the fire that damaged the Frame Center and Golf Art building but didn’t harm its structure.

“We were really grateful to the Ridgefield Fire Department because they saved the building,” he said, adding that Fire Chief Heather Burford helped “talk me down” from the initial shock. “You think, ‘Gee will I ever do business again?’ ”

He relocated in Wilton temporarily. “I was really touched by my clients. A lot of clients came down from Ridgefield and Redding,” he said. Overall, business was slower than usual at the temporary location, he said. “I got no walk-ins.”

Now, though, he’s back in the building that has been home to his business for some 15 years, and it’s much improved. The air conditioning and heating has all been redone, as well as the electrical wiring and insulation. Drop-panel ceilings have been taken out, opening up the space’s high ceilings, brightening up the little building.

But a more important part of his business’s makeover is a slightly retooled marketing approach to emphasize the non-golf side of his business. He’s having a new sign put out front that makes the “Frame Center” lettering more even in size with the “Golf Art.”

“It’s also the Frame Center and Golf Art — we’re more than golf,” he said.

He has a fully equipped framing studio in the shop, which was expanded after the fire, and he sells all sorts of art, from antique maps and botanicals to celebrity photographs and autographs. He even works directly with interior designers, at discounted rates, and offers expert framing.

“Most people hang things either too high or too low,” or hang pieces that are the wrong scale for the space, he said. By properly displaying art, he said, “you can completely transform a room.”

Another part of his business that’s not golf-related is his “corporate premiums” — gear from pens to leather boxes, rubber bracelets and water bottles that he customizes with corporate and schools insignias, often to be given out at events.

He prides himself in his ability to find just about anything people are looking for, no matter how specific, adding that a golf course in Idaho wanted a specific sculpture they gave out at annual events but could no longer get from their longtime supplier. He found the sculpture, and the golf course has bought the sculpture from Mr. Rooney every year since.

“If you want pink sneakers but they have to be paisley, we’ll do that,” he said.

Mr. Rooney does business all over the country, largely because he was an early adopter of the Internet, registering Golf-Art.com long before small businesses were moving in that direction.

He does a lot of trophy sales, including custom trophies from glass and metal to Wedgewood ceramic-style trophies, online and for area courses and schools.

Over the years, Mr. Rooney’s learned flexibility and diversity are an important recipe for longevity.

“I’ve been in business 25 years,” he said. “I plan on being here another 20 years or so, God willing.”

Though its doors have been open a few weeks now, the Frame Center and Golf Art’s “grand reopening” party will be Thursday, Oct. 25, around 4 to 8 p.m. at the 609 Ethan Allen Highway shop. Everyone is welcome, but a few personal invitations will be extended to clients, friends, and emergency responders, Mr. Rooney said.

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