Happiness is a Frame of Mind

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Frames on 3rd, located on the corner of Third and 22nd streets, beckons passersby with its simple storefront, its door typically open on a warm day. Owner Robb Dominguez can often be found stationed at his worktable in front of a large wall of perfectly arranged frame samples, helping guide customers as to what dimensions and layout would best showcase a piece.

With his friendly voice and calm demeanor, Dominguez, a San Jose native, is easy to talk to. 

“In my opinion, you only frame if your parents frame,” he said. 

Dominguez was introduced to framing by his mom, who would frame drawings instead of sticking them to the refrigerator. With framing being his first part-time job at age 22, he found his passion. 

Dominguez opened Frames on 3rd in 2004, in a neighborhood that’s changed considerably over the last 16 years. 

“It was a pretty shady, interesting neighborhood…and because of the art students it was a fun neighborhood. The area at the time, it was fascinating, I liked it. The area was very artistic,” Dominguez remembered fondly.  

The California College of the Arts campus and various Academy of Art sites were located nearby, and students found inexpensive housing here.

Before launching Frames, Dominguez worked for a framer located in China Basin, mostly for institutions, while moonlighting on the side. While riding the bus home, Robb passed the empty Third and 22nd streets storefront for more than two years and had an epiphany. 

“There was a customer base. There was no pre-thought or anything, it sounds like a good Idea, let’s do it, let’s try it! Everything just fell into place,” Dominguez explained. “I’ve been very lucky; the lights are still on, and the rents paid.” 

He started advertising in the View when he opened, his only other marketing word of mouth.

While the COVID-19 pandemic forced Dominguez to amend his hours of operation, closing at 4 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. as well as on Saturdays, he considered himself lucky, with business more or less steady. He confessed frustration with supply chain issues, which has caused a backlog of orders. He said he’s fortunate that most people are understanding and willing to wait. 

Things are “starting to catch up,” he said. “It’s fun, I enjoy it, it suits my personality… I’ve gotten to the point where I wouldn’t settle for anything else…I’m very lucky, everything in my life is pretty much a plus.” 

While Dogpatch continues to develop, now with “families, dogs, trams and skateboards,” the art and creativity that drew Dominguez to the neighborhood remains. 

“As long as I enjoy it… as long as I can afford it, what more can I ask?”