By Ayala Ben-Yehuda
After 30 years of preserving customers’ artwork and memories at their custom framing shop on Bell Boulevard, newly retired Bob and Peggy Hoffman have their own fond recollections of the business they built with their hands.
The Hoffmans, who opened Peggy’s Custom Framing in 1973, sold their business at 45-69 Bell Blvd. earlier this month, ending their decades of hard work.
The Bayside couple have framed photographs of families through generations, preserving the images of children who later celebrated weddings and then wanted to frame pictures of their own children.
“We stopped at the height of our career,” said Bob Hoffman, 69, who worked at a machine shop in Hicksville, L.I. before opening the store with his wife.
Their frames and mats were cut and assembled by hand with a level of care rarely found anymore.
Peggy Hoffman, 67, an artist who paints on china, firmly believed that frames “are part of the artwork.”
She was active in the Long Island Art Guild and worked at a frame store in Whitestone before opening the store, which she ran mostly on her own in the first year — a rarity for women at the time.
Peggy’s Custom Framing began as what Bob Hoffman called a “nickel-and-dime” concern at a time when Bell Boulevard was home to several framing shops.
But most of the others closed over the years while the Hoffmans’ business became more sophisticated, eventually offering conservation-quality framing of everything from fine art to sports jerseys.
The couple has even built mountable display cases for children’s instruments and groundbreaking shovels.
“A lot of people in our business are no longer doing it the old way,” said her husband. “They’re really not doing it with their hands.”
After quitting the machine shop and joining his wife full time, Bob would cut the wood and metal for the frames and size the mats, while Peggy and the store’s employees assembled the frames with glass fronts.
Peggy would even paint delicate decorative lines on the mats to accent the work in the frame.
“The clientele always got better,” said Peggy. “Most people who custom-frame are creative people.”
Loyal customers grew to trust the couple with expensive art, such as Erté pieces and even original Disney animation celluloid drawings costing thousands of dollars.
Bob could even frame a mirror to match a dresser by looking at the wood stain on one of the drawers.
The couple retired after selling the business to a new owner who has retained the store’s name and was trained by Bob Hoffman in custom framing.
“We have to travel a little bit and have some time to ourselves,” said his wife, sitting in her living room surrounded by dozens of paintings and photographs she and her husband had framed themselves.
Two longtime employees — Maria Naro and Peggy’s sister, Bernadette Aliberti — still work at the store.
The Hoffmans were grateful for their help and for the customers who had supported them through the years.
“We had really nice clientele,” said Peggy. “I hate to leave them.”
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.