Cardboard box? Can of Coke? “We can frame it,” Brendan McCarthy says, half joking and half knowing he’d love to take on either project should a customer request it.
The easygoing former commercial lottery and gaming salesperson with an early background as an Industrial Engineer in printing, emigrated from Ireland in 1994. First to Brooklyn, NY, then to Rhode Island in 1998, McCarthy never intended to stay in the Ocean State for more than three months. He fell in love with the community, although admitting it was initially hard to break into, and has since made lasting friendships. McCarthy’s friends include fellow EG Yacht Club sailors, Cathy Buchanan and Jason Dittleman, from whom he purchased Crestar Framing (51 Liberty Street, EG) in February 2022, together with his wife, Edith. Edith and Brendan heard about Buchanan’s plans for retirement as well as the enjoyment possible in making a difference in people’s lives with art, and were intrigued.
McCarthy took over Crestar with an early goal not to lose a single employee in the transition. He learned not only how things work but how to make them work, and now he’s modest but proud to admit he’s actually added two to his team over the last 10 months. Buchanan’s willingness to stay on and train McCarthy was generous and much needed as McCarthy likens his experience learning the business while also maintaining the clientele to trying to get into a car while it’s moving. McCarthy has since developed a great appreciation for the trade, and values his wife’s broad perspective of the business in comparison to his tendency to focus on the day-to-day. McCarthy loves the attention to detail that is custom framing, as well as the cleanliness in manufacturing that it requires; that every job is unique is a bonus.
The Crestar team has an extensive background in the arts, including Masters in Fine Arts and degrees in art for multiple staff members, as well as others who are also currently art teachers or RISD students. McCarthy credits them, as well as Crestar’s ability to differentiate itself from others, for their successes. The 1,600 square feet of space off Main on Liberty Street allows for the entire manufacturing process to happen in-house. Crestar has the utmost control over framing quality and product availability, utilizing its unique ability to order boxes and sticks of molding, alongside in-house design, fitting, and joining.
Crestar isn’t simply a manufacturing facility for custom framing jobs, however. It is an impressively curated space with six artists currently displaying their work in the gallery. Mirrors and posters or reproductions of paintings are readily available, and Crestar is unique in that same day custom jobs are possible as well. Some creative, lighthearted framing projects have also been created for retail shopping such as the jovial one shown above, “Break Glass In Case of Emergency.”
Others have been impressively large in scale and scope, such as the 800 piece order for Daniel Danger earlier this year, “Will He Finish What He Begins?” It was a shadowbox-style frame encompassing four layers of screen-printed, laser cut papers for a captivating 3D effect. WIth museum glass and impressive presentation, each was incredibly detailed and complicated. McCarthy was proud to relay that 700 pieces sold in a single weekend in a Brooklyn, NY gallery. With this, Crestar has completed over 5,000 orders under McCarthy’s leadership.
McCarthy encourages everyone to come in. “Everyone’s art is their own,” he says, “and we certainly all have things, so many things in all of our houses, that could use a beautiful frame. There’s nothing snobby about it.” Crestar enjoys fulfilling requests to frame commemorative golf balls often, as well as meaningful memorabilia from deceased family members, and flags and medals honoring veterans in countless wars and conflicts through the years. Paper and canvas printing are always options, as well as the ability to print an image up to 44” wide with unlimited length, depending only on the picture file’s resolution or the limitations of one’s wall space.
With Brendan McCarthy and his wife Edith’s purchase of Crestar, they are continuing an East Greenwich tradition of custom framing, printing, and on-site manufacturing that has been in place for 22 years. McCarthy was disappointed to hear of the recent announcement of the closing of fellow downtown gallery and frame shop, B&H Framing and Greenwich Gallery, by owner Alexandra Potts. Potts recommends her clients take their future framing needs to the Crestar team, easily acknowledging their work is great.
Crestar is open 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on weekdays, and on weekends by appointment. With a dedicated van for the delivery and installation of even large scale commissioned works, Crestar’s “listen first” approach aims to make it easy for the customer. Shown in the lead photo: Crestar wad thrilled for the opportunity to unveil its space and cutting edge manufacturing capabilities for the most recent EG Chamber of Commerce event, “Business After Hours.”