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Best New services

Awarded to the art gallery/custom frameshop offering the best new art-and-framing service

Winner • Fine Art Specialists OWner • L. Lyman Speckheuer LOcatiOn • Virginia Beach, Va. Web site •
bout 18 years ago, L. Lyman Speckheuer, owner of Fine Art Specialists, added the Insurance Art Recovery program to the existing services of the frameshop. This new service helps people who have had their artwork damaged by fire or flood. The venture became highly successful, and to make the service more efficient and convenient for customers at the same time, she recently added a digital component. Insurance Art Recovery takes the next step in helping people preserve their treasured art, whether it’s an expensive professional piece they’ve collected or something with sentimental value. The service provides customers with detailed estimates and inventories for their damaged artwork and then informs them of different treatment options. “To have someone say, ‘This is my grandfather’s picture,’ or bring in things from their family that are really a part of their lives—those have been the most rewarding things to save,” Speckheuer says. “I realize that a lot of things damaged in a fire get thrown out because people just don’t know what to do with them. The one thing that people appreciate most, pretty much no matter what they own, are family photographs. If you can save and reframe their photographs, that often means most to clients.” In 1991, one of the framing clients had a fire in their business, which had a lot of framed artwork in it. In treating the extremely sooty pieces, they all received new matting and frames. Already experienced in antique frame repair and gilding, and being well-versed in conservation picture framing, the idea of


L. Lyman Speckheuer

This before-and-after picture of a customer’s treasured framed crossstitch demonstrates the type of projects Fine Art Specialists handles under the Insurance Recovery program.

insurance-related work seemed appealing. That’s when Speckheuer pondered about how to market the idea. “We initially directly contacted some people we knew; it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. We happened to know someone from a large insurance company that had a large adjusting office locally, and they were kind enough to let us come in and do a pitch. Immediately after, they used our service and started recommending us. If you do a good job, people will talk about it,” Speckheuer says. Fine Art Specialists has been very happy with the success of the Insurance Art Recovery service, which Speckheuer refers to as “recession-proof.” “We haven’t been affected at all,” she says of her business’ fate during the economic downturn. “People still have house fires, and they’re still covered by insurance companies.” In fact, the business grossed an average of $65,000 a year solely as a frameshop before adding Insurance Art Recovery. Now, the company grosses an average of $237,000 a year, two-thirds of which comes from Insurance Art Recovery, and has continued to be successful during tough economic times. Fine Art Specialists also has expanded to include a network that is made up of appraisers, conservators, a doll restorer, clock maker and silversmith, as well as various other experts in the field. Speckheuer’s company deals with all kinds of damaged artwork in the insurance art recovery industry, but the most common types of damages brought into the store are caused by fire or water. “In the wintertime, you’ll get pipes breaking, which results in water damage claims. We are in a coastal city. After hurricane Isabel, there were damages caused by trees falling on homes, which resulted in water and impact damages. Also, there were power surgers when the electricity was restored, which

Removing a framed piece of art from a damaged home

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L. Lyman Speckheuer says she wants to get the message out to other custom framers that the Insurance Art Recovery service can be extremely successful. That being said, she cautions framers to be fully prepared for all the service entails. “If a frameshop owner wanted to add this service, they would have to know what they can and cannot do themselves and decide how they might best fill in the gaps and how they might best be able to market adjusters,” she says. “I would not encourage anyone who does not know how to do good conservation framing to offer it. If you do know how to, if you can identify types of artwork, if you can tell one type of original print from another, and you can do framing very well, then it’s a good thing to try.” Everything that Insurance Art Recovery entails can be overwhelming, but Speckheuer believes if framers are willing to seek help for aspects of it that are beyond their abilities, it is possible to offer the service. “We choose to go to the site as required,” she says. “We have a large cargo van, and we can go onto a disaster site and pack up damaged artwork, and we do that very well. There are frameshops that might not want to offer that but have a cleaning company do it instead.” She added that the service “does take more room than an average frameshop. If you’re framing something for a client off the street, you probably wouldn’t want to be taking apart moldy artwork next to it. You need to accommodate space and to deal with dirt. Then, you just have to be able to know what your scope of talent is. If you’re not qualified to do painting repair, then find a conservator in private practice through the American Institute for Conservation (AIC), and make a connection. If you don’t want to do photo restoration, you might know someone very good at digital imaging and might want to propose the service. There are companies that already offer that service, and they can offer it to an insurance company just as well as a private citizen.”
DECOR September 2009 3


DECOR September 2009 • •

Best New services

“I’m tickled to death just to tell people that there’s an opportunity that maybe they hadn’t thought of yet.” —L. Lyman Speckheuer, owner of Fine Art Specialists, on winning the DECOR Art & Framing Retailers Award

caused fires in some of the older, historic homes.” Once brought into the shop, there is a broad scope of ways that repairs are done, depending upon the damages. For example, house fires can cause different types of damages. Often, the fires start in one spot, only causing major damage to the room it started in but spreading soot throughout the entire house. Fine Art Specialists can often repair soot-damaged artwork

under glass by cleaning the frame and glass, replacing the matting if needed and replacing the backing, dust cover and hanging system. However, if artwork is closer to a fire and has experienced hotter temperatures, the frame finish might have bubbled up, Speckheuer says. In this case, Speckheuer says, the frame is replaced as well. “The potential is to be able to go into a house and professionally reframe ev-

Fine Art Specialists recently cleaned up a wall of framed photographs for a 90-year-old man after a fire caused by a short in the wiring of the water heater in his condo damaged them. In addition to the photos, Fine Art Specialists also handled his collections of antique swords and weapons, documents and certificates (some dating back to the 1600s), books and many larger prints and antique frames. “Many of his items had been passed down through the generations, and he is quite a passionate caretaker of his family history,” store owner L. Lyman Speckheuer says. 4 DECOR September 2009

erything they had framed before,” she says. “Sometimes the frames need to be replaced, sometimes they just need to be wiped off, but if it needs a new mat, who better to do it than a picture framer?” Fine Art Specialists puts a lot of time and effort into being able to offer all of the different aspects of Insurance Art Recovery. Employees frequently travels to disaster sites to view damaged artwork and bring it back to be worked on. To be sure that long-distance travel is worth the expense, Fine Art Specialists elected to add digital evaluations to their services in 2007.

Digital evaluations are done by having someone at the site—or someone who has already taken the items from the site—take a picture and e-mail it to Fine Art Specialists so Speckheuer can assess them. An initial estimate can be done and sent to the adjuster before the travel costs are incurred. “We added the service because we do travel a lot,” she says. “It allows us to be sure prior to our going that we know what to take. If we see things that have ornate frames or unusual shapes, then we can take the proper packing materials. Or, maybe it will just let us know that there are old photos and nasty frames, and we need to replace all frames, so they can just ship them to us.” Offering a oneof-a-kind service is not the only reason Speckheuer’s store continues to be successful. She knows it’s also about adding that little bit of extra effort to each job. “I think the fact that we really do want to make sure we are doing the best job we can for everybody contributes to our success,” she says.“Whether they’re coming in off the street or have an insured loss, the product that goes out of our shop is the best it can be. I’m sure that’s true for a lot of business owners. If you care, I think your customers will know it.” —By Catherine Martin •