Mount Carmel will soon be saying goodbye to a longstanding institution in Wabash County.
Debbie and Terry McGuire, owners of the Ben Franklin store stationed in the Wabash County seat, will be retiring from the framing business after more than three decades of serving the community. The store will not be closing its doors, however, as the McGuires are selling it to Mount Carmel resident and fellow entrepreneur Constance Folsam, the owner of Backyard Markets and Constant Cravings candy store.
But for over 30 years, Debbie McGuire has been the face people see when they wanted their pictures framed, their bouquets arranged and their decorative needs met.
“We’ve owned this store for 27 years,” said McGuire. “Before that, we owned a frame shop on Ninth Street for five years.
“So I’ve been in business 32 years.”
Prior to finding herself as an entrepreneur in the field of framing, McGuire had already established herself in an entirely different career.
“I had been a secretary for approximately 20 years in various places,” she recalled, citing Olney Central College and Eastern Illinois University as previous places of employment. “Then I moved to Colorado and then Oregon.
“I moved back, to find work because my sister worked down here.”
After working with her sister for five years, McGuire happened upon a unique opportunity, one in which she jumped on without hesitation.
“They were going out business, and there was a frame shop down the street I was taking stuff to for my employer to be framed,” she remembered. “And they were selling it, and I thought, ‘Well, I think I can do this.’
“So I bought it.”
As it turned out, McGuire’s assumption that she could adapt to the framing business was proven accurate after the first day of owning her first store, Frames and Things.
“I taught myself to frame,” she recalled. “We were supposed to get two weeks (to train), and she gave us one day and left town.
“So I had to learn on my own, because we had all the stuff bought.”
McGuire refuses to put Folsam in that same situation, and will be staying on part-time for a period after the sale is completed in order to help the new staff get acclimated to the business.
“I don’t want to leave my customers hanging, either,” said McGuire on continuing to work part-time at the store. “And I don’t want to recommend them to somebody who doesn’t have any experience. “(Constance) has another lady that’s going to be up here shadowing me that knows some about framing, but she wants to learn more.”
McGuire herself recalled the circumstances through which they were able to purchase the Ben Franklin building 27 years ago.
“And then the opportunity came to buy Ben Franklin from Jim Wilderman, and we decided, ‘What the heck?’ and we consolidated the frame shop and jumped in with both feet.”
And now, after 32 years, they’ve decided it’s time to call it a career.
“Because I’m going to be 70 in April,” McGuire said when asked of the reason for her decision to retire. “We just decided it was time to hang it up, and we were fortunate to get inheritance money and purchase a house in Palm Springs, close to my son in Los Angeles.
“We’re wanting to move out there and be close to him.”
The McGuires won’t be making the trek to California immediately, however. Terry still has two years left to serve as Captain of the Mount Carmel Fire Department.
“That’s time to box stuff up and move,” Debbie noted.
What McGuire will miss most about the job is the people she has spent more than three decades serving.
“I’ve met a lot of nice people, and I’ve had a lot of very loyal customers, in framing especially” noted McGuire. “For two or three years in a row, I did over 100 prom bouquets.
“That was always nice, because they would bring their dresses in and get all excited, so it made you feel good.”
Having remained in business as long as the McGuires have, Debbie noted that she’s quite literally seen customers grow up before her eyes.
“I worked with some of them from Eighth Grade Dance clear through high school,” she explained. “Dances, and then, their wedding.
“And then I’ve met some of their children.”
Throughout the years, McGuire has built a reputation amongst her clientele for her ability to design beautiful decorative pieces. In some cases, she noted, customers have invited her to their homes to “get a feel for what they like,” while others have simply asked her to design something that looks nice, trusting her judgement rather than feeding her 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, I’ve got you fooled at least.’
“But I feel like I’ve gained a lot of knowledge up here.”
As for the more challenging framing jobs McGuire took on, she remembered working on a three-foot by five-foot American Flag that survived the Allendale Tornado of 1989.
“It was like framing a doorway,” she explained. “They wanted it framed, dirt and all, no repairs or anything.
“It’s now hanging in a home in Allendale.”
While McGuire helped to immortalize one piece of Wabash County history, she recalled the ending of another.
“Like when The Corner closed over there, that was catastrophic to me,” she said. “I would go every morning and get coffee from (The Corner Owner) Wayne (Walden) and we’d chat for five minutes and then I’d come back.
“We had a little community here on the corner, kind of.”
However, McGuire pointed out that change is part of life, even when those changes aren’t ideal.
“Life changes,” she stated. “It’s always evolving.”
As the McGuires set out on their coming change, McGuire again reflected back to the customers that have graced her business over the last 32 years.
“We’ve enjoyed the people we’ve met and the customers that were loyal and came in and supported us,” she said. “We’ll miss them.”