Although Jay Juarez, owner of Iloilo Custom Framing, Inc., says he thrives on the creativity that goes into his job, it is the interaction with his customers that he prizes above all else.
His customers certainly seem to appreciate it as well. Juarez says that Iloilo has an 85 percent customer return rate, and he has customers who have moved to the suburbs or even left the state but still return to Iloilo for their framing.
Juarez's career path began on a very different course. Born and raised in the Philippines to a family that wanted to see their son excel in agriculture, Juarez quickly realized his passion lay in more creative endeavors. He discovered dance and thrived in several aspects, choreographing and directing school and amateur dance and musical performances. Eventually, he moved into social work, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree.
Pressure from his family led Juarez to immigrate to the United States and join his family in Chicago in 1982. Juarez said his first job in Chicago was working in a warehouse for an art supply store. Juarez worked his way up in sales and management and, after nine years of learning the business, he decided to open his own store.
In 1991, Iloilo, named for his boyhood hometown in the Philippines, opened on Clark Street. The store began as an art supply store that offered custom framing as one of its services.
When Iloilo first opened, it was one of only two art supply stores in Andersonville; now, there are four. The increased competition and emergence of computer graphics left the market for art supply tight, while the custom framing side of the market was growing. Juarez was also facing a move from his original location due to the landlord wanting to make room for Cheetah Gym. Therefore, in 1998 Juarez moved Iloilo to its current location at 1478 W. Berwyn and limited the store's services exclusively to custom framing.
Juarez believes community support has helped his store. He and his life and business partner, Andy Burrows, chose Andersonville as the location for the store because they were already residents in the neighborhood and felt that the atmosphere was a good fit. The neighborhood already had a few gay-owned businesses when Iloilo first moved in, but that number has grown over the years. LGBT customers are just one segment of Iloilo's clientele—but it certainlyis a welcome one, and the community has been very supportive over the years.
The community of artists in Andersonville and the greater Chicago area has also been important to Iloilo's success, making up another segment of Iloilo's customer base. Juarez has been supporting local artists in his store, displaying different individuals' work on a more or less quarterly basis. These artists have included Ophelia Clark and Ken Bennett, among others. In addition, there is a very special artist whose works hang on Iloilo's wall: Juarez's 11-year-old niece. 'The art scene in Chicago certainly adds to the market for custom framing,' Juarez told Windy City Times. 'We hope to see it increase in the coming years.'
Juarez is very content with the current state of his business, but would like to expand his services to include the area of specialty restoration and he is preparing to take the necessary classes to expand these services. Juarez said, 'The interest in expanding into restoration work was borne out of necessity. It's nice to be able to provide the service to my customers.'
Iloilo is at 1478 W. Berwyn; the phone is 773-784-3962.