One family, nine people (yes, nine) has been the driving force behind the success of well-known Oklahoma City framing enterprise called Pirates Alley. Pirates Alley was named after a street in New Orleans where an artist colony existed. R.J. and Alvina Henrichs and their seven children, Rose, Theresa, John, Robert, Tony, Paul and Sara have all helped propel this business to success. Along the way, we have been innovative and established many "firsts" in the marketplace for the industry.
The business was actually started by R.J. Henrichs. At the age of 12, he was working in his grandfather's paint and wallpaper business in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At his grandfather's knee, he learned how to mix paints to create very distinctive colors. It's a skill that would serve R.J. well into his adulthood. In 1964, married and with children, R.J. moved the family to Oklahoma City where he became manager of a Sherwin Williams paint store in Shepard Mall. As a service to local artists, R.J. added artist's supplies to the inventory. Because of his knowledge of color and a keen eye for detail, artists began going to him for critiques of their artwork. He befriended and mentored many young artists. To accommodate Oklahoma artists, R.J. also added framing to the mix. He began a custom framing business in his garage. Soon, R.J. and Sherwin Williams parted company and in 1970, R.J. opened Pirates Alley Art Supplies and Frame Shop on the alley at 30th and North Penn.
His partner and wife was Alvina, who took care of the children during the day and worked nights as a waitress at Glen's Hik'ry Inn. Typically Alvina saved the money she earned, but as Pirates Alley grew, she invested all of her money in "the family business." Alvina left her night job and went to work at Pirates Alley. Eventually all the children worked there also. The children worked there to earn spending money or help pay their way through college. Three of the children, Rose, Theresa, and Tony made the framing business their career.
Pirates Alley has done the framing for artistic works that hang in the Vatican, in museums in France and China and in homes all over the United States. Oil Paintings stretched on arched frames(a highly unusual process) was provided in 1990 for the murals that hang in the Rotunda of the Oklahoma State Capital.
R.J. and Alvina worked side by side for many years. A second store was opened in 1979. In the early 80's, Pirates Alley was incorporated and Alvina was named President and CEO. After an automobile accident, R.J. retired in 1995. Alvina and their daughters Rose and Theresa and their son Tony continue working at Pirates Alley to this day.
Throughout the years, Pirates Alley developed many firsts in the Oklahoma City area for the framing business. We were the first to offer the most extensive in stock moulding supply. To this day, we carry over 500 styles in stock in our state of the art moulding room complete with 2 saws and 2 underpinners. Pirates Alley was also the first company to offer a large selection of readymade frames. To this day, we carry the largest selection of readymades in the state. The annual 50% off readymade sale in January is one of the largest events of the year for a lot of artists and regular patrons as well. We were the first to offer a one week turn around service for custom framing. And although we no longer offer art classes, we were the first retail frame shop to do so. Such notables as Bert Seabourne, Dennis Parker, Mike Larsen, Jean Richardson and Barbara Mock taught at Pirates Alley.
Today the team at Pirates Alley includes 12 people. Alvina, Theresa, Mari Jo and Lori at the North Store. Rose, Cindy, Tony, Darrell, John, Gary, Jai and Chris make up the Shop team at the 23rd street store. Collectively we have over 250 years of experience in the framing business and the employees at Pirates Alley have an average of 13 years experience, with seven of them having over 20 years experience Consequently, when it comes to framing, there is very little we can't do. And when it comes to business enterprises, after 40 years, few others can really say it's "a family business" like the Henrichs.