PRINCETON: A picture perfect business for more than half a century

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
From a creaky swivel chair inside his shop on Spring Street, David S. Rosendorf has as good a view as any of the world around him in downtown Princeton.
He likes to say he is 74 “going on 29,” someone who has spent more than half a century being his own boss. In his 55th year as an entrepreneur, he has been in business for himself as a frame maker who realized as a young man that the pressures of working in advertising were not for him.
Despite his longevity, the owner of the Frame Shoppe says matter-of-factly that he feels he has not “arrived” as a businessman. His industry and the larger art world are changing, he said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever arrived,” he said. “The business changes all the time.”
On a recent rainy afternoon, he is found alone inside his shop — adorned with frame samples that hang on the walls. A yellow flier that he gives to a visitor lists some of the artists whose original pieces he has framed for galleries and other customers through the years, Matisse, Renoir, Rembrandt, to name a few.
He has done work for museums and galleries in New York and Philadelphia, and major collectors. “Quality here is number one,” he said.
Here, customers get a frame for a piece of artwork, big or small. The most expensive frame he has ever made cost $36,000.
“We’re not a normal frame shop. We never tried to be,” he said. “We’ve always tried to work at the top end. And we have. We’ve succeeded.”
He is an admitted stickler for detail — a character trait that he inherited from his late father, who also was in business for himself and was Mr. Rosendorf’s first client. He is a perfectionist, committed to making sure what he produces is of the highest quality.
“Look, when you’re working at the level that we work with artwork, there’s no such thing as a mistake,” he said. “And because of that, everything is checked and checked and checked and checked.”
Mr. Rosendorf is from the then-Princeton Borough, the youngest of two children. “It was a very happy childhood,” he said. “Princeton was a different town then.”
Mr. Rosendorf’s father, Irving, ran a photography studio on Nassau Street. After school and during summers, he worked in the framing department of the studio.
His father was disappointed when Mr. Rosendorf did not want to take over the family business, instead charting a different path.
His first job after graduating from high school was for an advertising agency in New York, Martin K. Speckter Associates, whose biggest account was “The Wall Street Journal” and Dow Jones. Working in the production department, he lasted nine months. The pressure of the job got to him; he remembered a day when his hand started shaking.
“After nine months, I just couldn’t take it,” he said.
He started his own business, in a store on Witherspoon Street. Early on he was the boss of one employee: himself.
His landlord, however, had a granddaughter, Lucille Toto, of the Toto Market family, whom Mr. Rosendorf hired for a summer job. He ultimately fired her, but as Mr. Rosendorf tells the story, she got back at him by marrying him. The couple have been together for 49 years.
Through his long career, he has seen the old mom-and-pop stores of Princeton go by the wayside. Today, he remains as involved as ever: opening the store at 7 a.m. each day, six days a week. When the passion for the job goes away, he said he will know it’s time to say goodbye.
“I still, unfortunately, have my finger in every pot. I don’t delegate very well,” he said. “I still have that passion.” 
The Frame Shoppe is located at 6 Spring St., Princeton. 609-924-2300. 