Her mother-in-law requested something very unique one year for Christmas, but when Amber Masciarelli searched and searched, she didn’t care for what she discovered, so she decided to make it herself.
And that is the brief version of the story of how Customize Name Frames was founded in Belmont County.
“My husband’s mom told us that she wanted something that spelled their name, so we planned to purchase it for her, but when I did the research into it, I wasn’t really impressed with what I found,” Masciarelli said. “I ended up making three for the family for Christmas when I was still going to college in 2012.
“After I graduated, I quit the job that I had at the time and decided to do this on a full-time basis,” she said. “My whole family thought I was a little bit crazy, and my dad didn’t understand how I would survive on selling name frames for a living. But my husband was working in the coal mine, and he told me I should do it, so that’s what I did.”
Masciarelli was graduated from Martins Ferry High School in 2007, and then the 28-year-old business owner earned a pair of associate degrees in accounting and small business management from Ohio University Eastern and Belmont College. She and her husband, Trey, have made the business full-time jobs for both since he decided he did not wish to mine coal any longer.
“There was this day when my husband came home from working, and he said that he didn’t think he wanted to mine coal forever,” Masciarelli explained. “He wasn’t happy at all, so I begged him to join with the business and that’s what he decided to do a few months later.
“At that time in 2014, he said he would give it a couple of months to see how it went, and we agreed that if it didn’t work out, we would both go out and get new jobs,” she continued. “He’s still doing it with me full-time, and we’ve not looked back since. We either travel together every weekend, or we split up so we can cover two locations on the same day.”
Thus far, Customize Name Frames has traveled to shows, festivals, and retail outlets in four states, and the shop is located near Bellaire High School. Each frame features 4×6 photos of letters that spell what the customer wishes, and the Masciarellis do not charge according to the number of photos needed.
Customize Name Frames has traveled to 45 different locations in the past 52 weeks, including Oglebayfest and the Christmas in November event at Wesbanco Arena.
“When we set up at shows, festivals, or in malls, we take a pre-made selection of finished frames, and I have about 40 photos of every letter, and our customers have the chance to select what they want,” she explained. “There are themes to the letters, too, so it can be a name frame for a family member or even a family pet.
“They select the letters based on a theme that tells the story they want to tell, and my husband makes what they want right there on location,” Masciarelli said. “I pitch the product, and he’s the magic behind the curtain so our customers can take them home on the same day.”
One location the couple enjoys working is the Mall at Robinson Township located west of the city of Pittsburgh, and when the holiday shopping season begins the week of Thanksgiving, Customize Name Frames (https://www.facebook.com/customenameframes/) will operate a kiosk location for nearly six consecutive weeks.
“We chose that mall and not the Ohio Valley Mall because most of the people in this area know about Name Frames, and many have purchased them, so that’s why we travel to the shows and why we’ll have a kiosk in Robinson,” Masciarelli said. “Plus, our shop is in Bellaire, so if someone local wants one of our frames, they can call us (304-218-3049) and schedule an appointment to come in.
“Plus, we’ve attracted a lot of customers in the western Pennsylvania area, so having the kiosk up there made sense to us,” she continued. “It’s a big mall for holiday shoppers, and we’ve had a lot of success at that location in the past. My husband and I plan to work for 50 straight days, so it should be a pretty fun winter for us.”
And Masciarelli is sincere when referring to the couple’s travels and long hours as enjoyable.
“My husband and I were best friends for 12 years before we decided to start dating, and then I barely saw him when he started working in the coal mine,” she recalled. “Our schedules were really hectic, and he was working a lot of hours, but now we are together all of the time, and it’s been great.
“I work 365 days a year, and most of my days are consumed by the business, but yet I still do not feel as if I work at all. That’s how much fun this is,” Masciarelli said. “I love it. I’m a people person, and when I go to the shows, I have a blast. So many people have asked how we got the business up and running, so it’s a lot of fun for me to explain it to them.”
She snapped photos while attending high school and college but never formally studied photography, but Masciarelli did not wish to move away from family and friends as have so many other Upper Ohio Valley natives have in the last three decades.
So, she followed in her parents’ footsteps and continued the area’s trend involving entrepreneurship.
“I’ve always had the brain of an entrepreneur, and I have sold products before starting this business,” Masciarelli said. “My parents own Carlini’s Pizza Shop, and my mother manages it, so I have been surrounded by that influence my entire life. And, honestly, it’s probably best that I am my own boss most of the time because I have a pretty strong personality.”
(Photos provided by Amber Masciarelli)