The owners of the longtime downtown Highland landmark Hoosier Highlander are long past retirement age and looking to sell off the 71-year-old business, which is one of the few independent frame shops left in Lake County.
Donna Freeland and Sue Ferguson have been running the custom frame shop and art supply store at 2932 Highway Ave. since 1994 and are now hoping to retire sooner rather than later. They want a buyer who will "keep this iconic business in downtown Highland."
"The years have flown by while we were the caretakers of the iconic downtown Highland store," Feguson said. "We have loved our jobs because we have loved what we were doing."
On a stormy Halloween 23 years ago, they took over the 1,500-square-foot stationery store that first opened in 1946. They eventually phased out most office supplies to focus on framing, fine art supplies like canvasses, and the card making and scrapbooking supplies that were more in demand.
"Our customers are true treasures," Ferguson said. "They have framed some very interesting and beautiful things. I could go on and on with a list but a couple that come to mind: some baby clothing that crossed the prairie in a covered wagon and a collection of packages of every single kind of Kool Aid."
Ferguson said the business has helped customers celebrate baptisms, graduations, weddings, and other significant occasions with invitations, albums and framed photos from their respective events.
The store carries more than 2,000 frames from five different distributors, as well as mat boards with various color shades from four different manufacturers. Hoosier Highlander competes mainly with big box stores and art galleries that offer framing service.
"We feel that being the 'only game in town' can have advantages," Ferguson said. "As far as we know, we are the only independent custom framer in Lake County."
The store draws widely, bringing in customers from all over the area. Many are art students from Purdue University Northwest, Indiana University Northwest of the South Shore Arts League.
"Every day we learn something new," Ferguson said. "One day it could be about a specific artist, another we might learn about the function of an art supply product or the advantages of a newly marketed pen."