Colibri Art and Framing will eventually move into a new building at Second Street and Monterey Road

Published in the February 14-27, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life

From left, Colibri frame designers Ellie Honl, Leah De Lane and Sara Saia show off some of their frames in their downtown Morgan Hill shop. Photo by Marty Cheek

Leah De Lane loves to help people share their stories. At the newly opened Colibri Art and Framing shop in downtown Morgan Hill, she welcomes South Valley residents to bring their favorite photos, paintings and other objects of sentimental value for her and her team to make presentable for hanging on a wall of a home or business.

“I really enjoy meeting the client and spending time with them designing the product,” she said. “There’s usually a story behind the item that they’re framing. It could be that they traveled somewhere in the world and the photo or object has a story about where they went and what it means to them.”

The Colibri staff of three professional frame designers love a challenge that gets their creative juices flowing, De Lane said. Customers sometimes bring in unusual objects to place in a framing project. These have included a circuit board and an “engagement spoon” (it was stolen from a restaurant where the guy proposed because he didn’t have a ring with him).

“You can create a story surrounded by a frame, so it becomes more of a memory than just a piece of paper or an object alone,” De Lane said. “It never ceases to amaze me what can be framed and what people come up with. It’s the artistic sense that’s really exciting about this business because you never know what’s going to come through the door — and that’s especially true with a three-dimensional object, that sometimes can be more difficult to handle in a frame.”

De Lane came into the frame shop business after working for Revlon for 20 years. An injury kept her home for six months. During that time, she re-evaluated her career. Tired of constantly traveling, she explored franchise opportunities that would hone her managerial skills while expressing her artistic side. She bought the FastFrame franchise in downtown Morgan Hill and over the years built the shop into a business with a reputation for providing quality framing services in a quick turnaround time.

Photo by Marty Cheek
Ellie Honl shows off different mat options.

One of her customers, Gilroy resident Dan McCranie, often brought in photographs from his wildlife camera safaris that he wanted framed to hang in his popular Ladera Grill in Morgan Hill. One day, the restaurant owner told DeLane about his dream to build a fine art gallery in the downtown. He was working with architects to design a three-story building on the corner of Second Street and Monterey Road, the location of the current pop-up park. When completed in a year or two, the gallery will feature high quality photographs, paintings and sculptures from respected artists. It will also offer a wine bar for people to socialize as they stroll through the gallery. A fine dining restaurant is planned for the third floor.

The two realized that De Lane’s years of expertise in high quality framing would contribute to the art gallery experience. That led to the transformation from the FastFrame franchise into Colibri. Once the building is completed, the shop will move into it from its current location a block to the north. The change to an independent operation enables De Lane and her staff to have more flexibility in providing customers with more creative options for their framing needs. A new off-site production center, featuring top-of-the-line equipment, gives clients high-quality framing and has improved turnaround time. Colibri is now open seven days a week with extended hours, giving customers more flexibility in scheduling a frame design session.

“That has helped us to turn around our products quicker,” De Lane said. “While we have more than 3,000 frames from our gallery, 300 of those are available with complimenting mats from our Veloce Collection in three days or less. So, if you need something expeditiously, we can give you a quality product with a quick turn-around — and that’s a big plus for many people. There really aren’t that many frame shops that can give you that quick turnaround with high-quality frames. We’re really trying to make it convenient for people to get a great product quickly.”

Colibri also makes sure its staff takes the best care of the images and objects customers bring in, she said.

“That’s something important for people to think about,” she said. “You really don’t know what the framers are doing with your precious items once you leave the shop. It means a lot in longevity and conserving the product. All the materials we use are acid-free and high quality so they’re not damaging your product. And when we’re looking at an object, we’re really trying to figure out how we can get it into the frame to make it reversible. We are very careful when we work with our client’s artwork.”

De Lane and McCranie spent a lot of time coming up with a name for the shop. When they discovered that Colibri means “hummingbird” in Italian, they knew they had a winner. They loved incorporating into their logo the image of the beautifully colorful bird darting through air. The avian animal suggests the quality framing products and speed of service that Colibri gives customers.

The Colibri shop staff warmly invites residents of the South Valley to a special grand opening celebration Saturday, Feb. 17, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s a way to thank the community for its support as well as show-off the interior and exterior remodeling to transform FastFrame into Colibri, De Lane said. The shop will have a free drawing for framing prizes, such as a $500 gift certificate for framing, and original artwork from their featured artists Janet Vanderhoof, Jerri Kuehn, and JoAnne Perez Robinson.  Appetizers and refreshments from Ladera Grill will be served.

As Colibri grows its new frame-shop business model and eventual gallery, De Lane and McCranie have hopes that it will add to the visitor experience that downtown Morgan Hill offers. And she encourages schools and nonprofits to ask how Colibri can help support their involvement in the South Valley quality of life.

“It’s really important to Dan and me to be part of the community,” she said. “We really support organizations with fundraisers. It’s really important to us to give back to the community.”

Marty Cheek

Marty Cheek

Publisher at Morgan Hill Life
Marty Cheek is the publisher of Morgan Hill Life and Gilroy Life. He is also the co-author with Congressman Jerry McNerney of the book Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America From the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels.
Phone: (408) 782-7575
Marty Cheek