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UAM opens anticipated Frank Bros. exhibit

University curators honor the legendary furniture store.

Frank+Bros.+clearance+invitations+that+used+to+be+mailed+to+customers+are+framed+on+the+walls+of+%E2%80%9CFrank+Bros.%3A+The+Store+that+Modernized+Modern.
Frank Bros. clearance invitations that used to be mailed to customers are framed on the walls of “Frank Bros.: The Store that Modernized Modern.

Frank Bros. clearance invitations that used to be mailed to customers are framed on the walls of “Frank Bros.: The Store that Modernized Modern.

Zulema Suarez

Zulema Suarez

Frank Bros. clearance invitations that used to be mailed to customers are framed on the walls of “Frank Bros.: The Store that Modernized Modern.

Zulema Suarez, Staff Writer

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Long Beach residents who hear “Frank Bros.” might automatically think of a furniture store; however, Frank Bros. was far more than that. It was a family-oriented establishment that focused on unique designs in all aspects.

After being in business for 44 years, it is now possible to explore the history of the Frank Bros. furniture store and get a look inside Ron and his wife Nancy’s home on campus at Cal State Long Beach.

The “Frank Bros.: The Store That Modernized Modern” exhibit commenced with a reception at the University Art Museum on Jan. 28 and will run through April 9.

The exhibit not only showcases the furniture store itself, but it also gives viewers a look through the lives of the Frank family as well as their beliefs and traditions.

Opening in 1938, the Long Beach store began by importing modern Swedish furniture to Southern California. They are credited with selling high quality furniture for shoppers on a budget, as well as furnishing the Case Study Houses that John Entenza, editor of Arts & Architecture magazine, launched toward the end of World War II.

Ron Frank, Frank Bros.’ business owner from 1965-1982, is featured  on the walls of the exhibit saying, “I wanted to create the best contemporary home furnishings store in the United States. A place to find exciting new ideas, beautiful designs in every price range.” The focus on affordable, creative designs made Frank Bros. stand out from any regular furniture store.

Brian Trimble, curator of education at the CSULB University Art Museum, reflected on the amazing turnout the exhibit had for the opening reception.

“We had over 500 RSVPs, and that’s not even including everyone who came without RSVPing. Many people don’t think of Long Beach as a center for mid-century design,” Trimble said. “Stacy Dukes [a partner of Ron Frank and creator of many furniture pieces] taught here at CSULB. ‘The Emotional Eye’ exhibition was created by Cal State Long Beach students from the 1960s.”

“The Emotional Eye” is described in the exhibit as “one of the most ambitious and stimulating exhibitions in Frank Bros.’ history.”  

The idea of the exhibit was to stimulate new plans in the minds of visitors, to get them thinking about different ways of  making a home more riveting and appealing to viewers.

Kimberli Meyer, director of the UAM, shares Trimble’s idea that the exhibit is widely connected to the people in Long Beach.

“It’s wonderful to see such a great turnout, and to have an exhibition that touches people’s personal histories,” Meyer said. “It’s so interesting to also see what happens inside people’s houses.”

The curator for the “Frank Bros. at Home” portion of the exhibit, Beth Rayburn, was a graduate student of museum studies in the department of art history from CSULB. This portion of the exhibit focuses on the unique ceramics, tapestry, furniture and designs the Frank family had in their home.  Rayburn mentioned how satisfying the reception was, and said that throughout her work, the most important thing was getting it right for Nancy Frank, whom was also at the opening reception.

Another Long Beach resident, Cara Mullio, curator and main researcher for the Frank Bros. exhibit, had a tender moment while remembering her mother driving her and her sister down Long Beach boulevard to go to the store when it was active.

Cara’s research, along with exhibit co-curator Jennifer Volland’s research, is what made the exhibit possible. Without their production of the book, “Frank Bros. The Store That Modernized Modern” the significance of the Frank Bros. in Long Beach would not be as internationally recognized.

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