November 2020 is a special month for Barbara Hege Mercer, owner of Edmonds Frame Design and Atelier. Thirty years ago — in November 1990 — Mercer opened her picture-framing business in Edmonds. In the past three decades, she has experienced the joy of business growth and the tragedy of near death when a car crashed into her 5th Avenue South shop in 2007, sending her to Harborview Medical Center with life-threatening injuries.
Thanks to a supportive Edmonds community and a loving husband, she recovered. And the passion for her work continues as she serves customers who bring her treasures of art and memorabilia to be preserved and framed for their individual environments.
“I’m lucky, in all those years I’ve experienced life in all its richness, gave my best in my work and I’ve been fortunate to know what it feels like to live an enriched life touched by many,” Mercer said.
A native of Germany, Mercer received her master of fine arts degree from University of California Berkeley, and in San Franciso studied picture framing from Paul Frederique, the renowned personal picture framer for photographer Ansel Adams.
Noting that she loves Edmonds because it reminds her of her small, picturesque hometown in Germany, Mercer arrived here from California in September 1990. At the time, Mercer only knew one person: the mother of a friend and colleague that she had worked with at UC Berkeley.
Mercer had worked for the experience at some frame shops in the San Francisco and Berkley area, but she realized her most valuable education from Paul Frederique. Her goal was to open her own shop in Edmonds, applying her art and framing education to the highest standards. She celebrated the grand opening of her upstairs framing atelier at 4th and Dayton on Nov. 9, 1990.
How did customers find Edmonds Frame Design? A sign board downstairs on the street corner, an advertisement in the telephone book, social meetings through Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, and a lot of prayers and trust, Mercer says. The frame shop made it through the first year, and lasted for 12 years at 4th and Dayton before Mercer lost her lease because of new owners.
She relocated to her current 5th Avenue South location, and has been there every since.
In 2007, a car traveling at high speed crashed through the wall of Edmonds Frame Design, crushing Mercer and sending her to Harborview’s ICU for five weeks. While her survival was touch and go for a while, through it all, two things were constant: the love from her husband Charles and the support of her many friends in Edmonds.
The community came together for Mercer, who received many notes, loving cards and even monetary support. After she recovered, she courageously decided to return to that same spot in her frame shop and get to work. After six months of healing, she threw a grand re-opening party that brought a full house of her Edmonds friend, customers and business supporters, who danced and celebrated with joy.
Mercer found that reopening her business and gradually doing all the physical work assisted with her healing, as did her contacts with her customers.
“Somehow, (it) pulls us through hard times and brings a special connection to one another,” she said. Offering thanks for the community’s support, Mercer said with a smile that the next 30 years look even better.