Travis Long

From left, Emily Younger, Charles Younger, and Mary Ward Boerner

by Mimi Montgomery

photograph by Travis Long

Tucked into a row of shops off Dixie Trail, Frameworks is a family-owned gallery and frame design shop that’s been in business for 40 years. Owners Charles and Carolyn Younger started it as newlyweds after Charles left his job as a graphic designer at Research Triangle Institute to create custom frames out of the couple’s basement. Carolyn took care of the books and store operations. Their daughters Emily and Mary Ward came along and grew up spending time in the store, playing with customers and learning how to mat pictures and assemble frames. The two women now work in the family business: Emily does sales and helps to manage the store, while Mary Ward, a graduate of the N.C. State College of Design, handles photo restoration and graphic design services. The daughters have helped to expand Frameworks’ reach – the shop now works with commercial accounts locally and even internationally to provide custom graphic design, printing, framing, and installation. And Charles’s years of experience are evident in his encylopedic knowledge about design and framing – he can rattle off details about frame styles that have been around since the 15th century.

But as it has from the beginning, Frameworks’ emphasis is on working directly with customers. “You’re going to want something that is lasting, that will travel through time generation after generation,” says Charles. The job can be an intimate process. The Youngers handle some of their customers’ most precious things, from a grandfather’s WWII dog tags to a Sioux Indian peace-pipe bag to an entire zebra hide. “We’ve had a lot of tears at the counter,” Carolyn says, recalling some of the memories her customers have shared. Needless to say, the Youngers consider their patrons more than just business contacts. “Our friends are our customers and our customers become our friends,” says Charles. “That’s just the way it is.” And, of course, you only want the very best for your friends. “You’re only as good as your last job.”  

1520 Dixie Trail,