Two years ago, the fate of Ted Gibson’s seemed uncertain. The esteemed framing shop needed to downsize and move from its original 1946 location near once-posh MacArthur Park to a storefront in Koreatown. Business had been tough, and owner Richard Gibson, Ted’s son, worried about keeping existing patrons and attracting new ones. Then there was the problem of sheer stuff. An art auction had helped Gibson sell some of the art and curios that had accumulated over decades, but vast quantities remained. And not just art, but also frames and supplies that seemed to fill every inch of the 9,300-square-foot space that Gibson thinks was once a carriage house. Picture the workshop’s 620 shelves, each 12 to 16 feet long, holding 2,000 wooden moldings, and you get the idea. Beyond all that, entering Ted Gibson’s — with its old-fashioned cash register, hand-made signs and decades-old knicknacks and photos — was like stepping into the ’40s. A perfect snapshot of L.A. history, as I wrote in an LA Times article at the time.
The shop relocated in September 2010 as planned, and now is going strong. When I stopped by recently, I found Gibson conferring with a customer about an antique-looking cabinet of dark wood. Her son, when a toddler, had etched his initials into the wood — could Gibson fix it? He planned to do his best. Looking around, I felt the same sense of wonder I always had when visiting the shop as a little girl with my mom, who’s been going to Ted Gibson’s since before I was born. The art and curios all seemed to speak of different times and places. An exotic-looking wooden frame. A mirror set into an antique Chinese panel. A gilded frame encasing an oil painting of a girl in lace. A watercolor of ships at sea. A three-legged vase adorned with a ginkgo pattern. Like the old shop, the new space seemed crammed floor to ceiling with work samples, supplies, and the artsy knickknacks a 66-year-old store is bound to pick up. Gibson, affable and down-to-earth as ever, gave me a tour, pointing out projects-in-progress and hidden storage spaces.
In an era where everything can be done digitally (buy wine online!) — Ted Gibson’s remains a comforting emblem of the past that I hope can persist into the future. Check back in October for my article on Ted Gibson’s for the LA Weekly’s “Best of L.A.” edition. It certainly merits the title.
Photo credits: Daina Beth Solomon
Visit Ted Gibson’s at 4271 West 3rd St in Koreatown.