Spreading their wings: After 14 years in Amherst Hope and Feathers sets up shop in Northampton

Robin Gencarelle, an employee of  Hope and Feathers, owned by Michelle Raboin, gets frames ready for display  in the new space they opened at 238 Bridge St. in Northampton after moving from Amherst.

Robin Gencarelle, an employee of Hope and Feathers, owned by Michelle Raboin, gets frames ready for display in the new space they opened at 238 Bridge St. in Northampton after moving from Amherst. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

Michelle Raboin, owner of Hope and Feathers, in the new space at 238 Bridge St. in Northampton “We loved our space (in Amherst), but we outgrew it,” Raboin said.

Michelle Raboin, owner of Hope and Feathers, in the new space at 238 Bridge St. in Northampton “We loved our space (in Amherst), but we outgrew it,” Raboin said. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Robin Gencarelle, an employee of  Hope and Feathers, owned by Michelle Raboin, gets frames ready for display.

Robin Gencarelle, an employee of Hope and Feathers, owned by Michelle Raboin, gets frames ready for display. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Katie Bete, an employee of  Hope and Feathers, owned by Michelle Raboin, gets frames ready for display  in new space at 238 Bridge St. in Northampton.

Katie Bete, an employee of Hope and Feathers, owned by Michelle Raboin, gets frames ready for display in new space at 238 Bridge St. in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Michelle Raboin, owner of Hope and Feathers, in the new space at 238 Bridge St. in Northampton “We loved our space (in Amherst), but we outgrew it,” Raboin said.

Michelle Raboin, owner of Hope and Feathers, in the new space at 238 Bridge St. in Northampton “We loved our space (in Amherst), but we outgrew it,” Raboin said. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Robin Gencarelle, an employee of  Hope and Feathers, owned by Michelle Raboin, gets frames ready for display.

Robin Gencarelle, an employee of Hope and Feathers, owned by Michelle Raboin, gets frames ready for display. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Michelle Raboin, owner of Hope and Feathers, says the new spot at 238 Bridge St. in Northampton will give the business much more  room than the company’s longtime home in Amherst.

Michelle Raboin, owner of Hope and Feathers, says the new spot at 238 Bridge St. in Northampton will give the business much more room than the company’s longtime home in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Frames at Hope and Feathers, in the new space in Northampton.

Frames at Hope and Feathers, in the new space in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Michelle Raboin, owner of Hope and Feathers, in the new Northampton location.

Michelle Raboin, owner of Hope and Feathers, in the new Northampton location.

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 04-03-2024 5:03 PM

NORTHAMPTON — When customers walk into the Hope and Feathers framing shop, owner Michelle Raboin knows that there’s a story behind each request for one of the shop’s custom-built frames.

“It could be framing something that they hate, but their mother-in-law gave it to them and she’s coming for dinner,” Raboin said. “It could be the coolest art they ever saw and they finally got a poster for it. There’s always a really cool story with it, and I just love hearing people’s stories.”

Hope and Feathers, which takes its name from an Emily Dickinson poem, opened in Amherst 14 years ago and became a staple on Main Street. But Raboin recently moved the location to Northampton’s Bridge Street, where it will officially open for business on Friday.

“We loved our space, but we outgrew it,” Raboin said. “We were really bursting at the seams over there. So for over a year, I’ve been looking for a space to move into when this one became available.”

Since its opening at 238 Bridge St. where a real estate office used to be located, Raboin has gone from being the sole employee to adding five other women to her team.

The shop makes frames that can range in style and value, with some of the more intricate designs going for more than $200 per foot. Frames are made to support any kind of need, from photographs to oil paintings to even bejeweled insects. Dimensions can be specified up to a 16th of an inch. Materials used in making the frames include wood, metal and glass. The front of the store also features a custom-built metal display case for featuring all the frames, something unique among framing stores.

In a back room in the new building, Raboin shows an impressive workshop, where objects are installed into frames. Tools used in the frame building include a dry mount press, a saw and a computerized mat cutter, enabling high efficency when cutting the frames.

“We like to say we can frame something in an hour if somebody really needs something quick,” Raboin said. “Some frames take 15 minutes to build; some frames take longer. It really ranges.”

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Raboin got her start in framing when she was 17, when she got a job working in a craft store. Though she originally worked the store’s cash register, she was eventually was sent to the store’s frame shop.

“The woman I worked for in that frame shop was a tough cookie. Nobody liked to work with her, but I had a pretty thick skin,” Raboin recalled. “I basically kind of walked into an apprenticeship, which is really the only way you learn how to do this.”

The new Northampton location also offers printing services, can do large format pictures and restore older photos.

“You can literally walk in with your project, we’ll restore it and you can pick it up a few days later,” Raboin said. “Most of those [other restoration services] have gone online now, and sometimes people don’t like to mail away the one photo they may have. They want to know where it’s at.”

As with the previous location, Hope and Feathers also plans on holding pop-up art galleries for local artists in the area, with Raboin saying she intends to start sometime next month.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.