Mount Carmel will soon be saying goodbye to a longstanding Wabash County institution.
Debbie and Terry McGuire, owners of the Wabash County-based Ben Franklin business, will be stepping down from the frame business after serving the community for more than three decades. The store won’t close its doors, however, as the McGuires sell it to Mount Carmel resident and co-entrepreneur Constance Folsam, the owner of the candy store Backyard Markets and Constant Cravings.
But for over 30 years, Debbie McGuire has been the face people see when they want their pictures framed, their bouquets arranged, and their decorative needs met.
“We’ve had this place for 27 years,” said McGuire. “We previously owned a frame store on Ninth Street for five years.
“So I’ve been in business for 32 years.”
Before McGuire found herself a framing entrepreneur, she had already established herself in a very different career.
“I was a secretary in various locations for about 20 years,” she recalled, citing Olney Central College and Eastern Illinois University as previous locations. “Then I moved to Colorado and then to Oregon.
“I moved back to find work because my sister worked down here.”
After working with her sister for five years, McGuire had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that made her jump up without hesitation.
“They went out on business and there was a frame shop down the street that I took things to for my employer to frame,” she recalled. “And they sold it and I was like, ‘Well, I think I can do this. ‘
“So I bought it.”
As it turned out, McGuire’s assumption that she could adapt to the frame business after the first day of owning her first business, Frames and Things, proved correct.
“I taught myself to frame,” she recalled. “We should have two weeks (to train) and she gave us a day and left town.
“So I had to study on my own because we’d all bought things.”
McGuire refuses to put Folsam in the same situation and will stay part-time for some time after the sale closes to help the new hires get used to the business.
“I don’t want to let my clients down either,” said McGuire as he continued to work part-time in the business. “And I don’t want to recommend it to anyone who has no experience. “(Constance) has another lady who will be up here tailing me who knows about framing, but she wants to learn more.”
McGuire herself recalled the circumstances under which they could buy the Ben Franklin building 27 years ago.
“And then the opportunity came up to buy Ben Franklin from Jim Wilderman and we decided, ‘What the hell? ‘and we consolidated the frame shop and jumped in with both feet. “
And now, after 32 years, they decided to call it a career.
“Because I’ll be 70 in April,” said McGuire when asked about the reason for her decision to retire. “We just decided it was time to hang it, and we were lucky enough to have inheritance money and to buy a house in Palm Springs near my son in Los Angeles.
“We want to move out there and be close to him.”
The McGuires won’t travel to California immediately, however. Terry has two years left to serve as captain of the Mount Carmel Fire Department.
“It’s time to pack and move,” remarked Debbie.
What McGuire will miss most about this job are the people she has served for more than three decades.
“I’ve met a lot of nice people and I’ve had a lot of very loyal customers, especially on framing,” noted McGuire. “For two or three years in a row, I’ve made over 100 prom bouquets.
“That was always nice because they brought in their clothes and got all excited, making you feel good.”
After staying in the business for as long as the McGuires, Debbie noticed that she literally saw customers grow up in front of her eyes.
“I worked with some of them from eighth grade through high school,” she explained. “Dances and then their wedding.
“And then I met some of your children.”
Over the years, McGuire has made a name for herself with her clientele for her ability to create beautiful decorative pieces. In some cases, she found, customers have invited her into their home to “get a feel for what they like,” while others have asked her to design something that looks good and use her judgment instead of meeting their specific preferences.
“It’s nice to know they have that confidence in you,” she admitted. “They’ll say, ‘You know what you’re doing’ and I’ll say, ‘Well, at least I made a fool of you.’
“But I have the feeling that I have gathered a lot of knowledge up here.”
As for the more demanding frame jobs McGuire took on, she recalled working on a three by five foot American flag that survived the 1989 Allendale Tornado.
“It was like framing a door,” she explained. “They wanted it framed, dirt and everything, no repairs or anything.
“It’s hanging in a house in Allendale now.”
As McGuire helped immortalize a piece of Wabash County’s history, she remembered the end of another.
“When The Corner closed over there, it was disastrous for me,” she said. “I went and got coffee from Wayne (Walden) (The Corner Owner) every morning and we talked for five minutes and then I came back.
“We had a little community here on the corner.”
However, McGuire pointed out that changes are part of life, even when those changes are not ideal.
“Life is changing,” she said. “It’s always evolving.”
As the McGuires set out to make their upcoming move, McGuire thought back to the customers who have shaped their business over the past 32 years.
“We really enjoyed the people we met and the customers who were loyal and supportive,” she said. “We will miss you.”