Experienced framers Barry Stahl and Bob Clayton built Big Picture Framing from scratch in 2000, holding meetings around an old card table as construction roared around them. Today, framers at 15 area locations craft custom frames to display artwork, photographs, and record sleeves, and shadow boxes protect three-dimensional items such as ballet slippers, macaroni art, or a swarm of wasps. Patrons can dictate all design choices, choosing from metal and wooden frames in a multitude of colors and styles, or ask for recommendations from one of Big Picture Framing's resident experts. Big Picture Framing also stocks pre-framed art, prints, and posters to spruce up bare-walled homes or a drab doghouse.
One might not expect an immigrant with no formal education to name his family business after Yale University. But that's just what Steve Sheinkopf's grandfather did in 1923, and the pluckiness of the name was a harbinger of the company's ability to thrive against all odds. Over the course of almost 90 years, Yale Appliance & Lighting weathered the Great Depression and other economic crises, yet Sheinkopf's grandfather kept the business going and even made enough to help his four brothers emigrate to America. In 1984, when the landlord sold the Portland Street building that had housed Yale for 30 years, Sheinkopf helped his father measure a space on Freeport Street on the coldest day of that year. They've been there ever since.
What keeps the company going is a refusal to rest on its laurels and an almost obsessive commitment to customer satisfaction. On any given weekday, you'll find Sheinkopf blogging exhaustive side-by-side comparisons of a variety of his merchandise. The now 25,000-square-foot store houses more than 3,500 lights and thousands of appliances and plumbing products, and its delivery and service departments have grown to include 112 experienced employees and a fleet of 25 heavy-duty vehicles and industrial-size Tonka trucks.
The family legacy continues to flourish. Yale Appliance & Lighting’s kitchen appliances have made the megastore a multiyear winner of Boston magazine’s Best of Boston awards. As reported in the Boston Business Journal, Yale earned a Green Award from Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the city of Boston in 2007 for promoting energy-efficient appliances with education and in-store rebates. That same year, the Journal named Yale Appliance & Lighting one of the best places to work in Boston, which may be partly due to the frequent in-store cooking demos performed by regional chefs.
In 1934, Ben and Lena Rosen realized their humble dream of opening a mom-and-pop hardware store on Norfolk Street. As business flourished, customers began to request items beyond the scope of the shop's plumbing supplies, such as paint, window treatments, or tools to convert Cold War bomb shelters into Y2K panic rooms. Over the years, Norfolk Hardware & Home Center has responded to demand by expanding into a 40,000-square-foot store and warehouse manned by more than 50 employees. Their helpful, honest advice—along with their stockpile of appliances, paint, tools, hardware, and other home supplies—makes DIY home makeovers a breeze.
Though the horse-drawn vacuums of yesteryear have come and gone, North Shore Vacuum and Appliance retains its family-run ethos from when it first opened in 1934. Now helmed by fourth-generation salesman Wayne Simonelli, the shop carries vacuums from dozens of brands, such as Dyson, Eureka, and Panasonic, and the staff performs repairs on a slew of models as well. In an interview with the Daily Item, Simonelli said, "I know vacuums. I go to seminars, conventions. I probably repair 1,000 machines a year." This dedication has earned North Shore Vacuum and Appliance the distinction of Miele Diamond Dealer, with access to limited-edition models only made available to exemplary retailers and scientists still trying to build a time machine.