Macco of Bethesda Custom Framing

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      In the late 1940s, Louis “Mr. Macco” Rubin, recently returned home from serving in WWII, took a job at Mac’s Paint Store on 14th Street in Washington, DC.  The owner soon decided to retire and sold the business, predominantly house paints, to Lou who changed the name first to Mac Company and then Macco.  His wife, an accomplished artist, asked him to order oil paints for her.  Because artists paints were only available in wholesale quantities greater than her needs required, he added the excess to the store’s stock. Their demand increased, as well as for a wide range of artist supplies in general, so did his involvement in artists materials. Once Macco became an oasis for so many artists, the business slowly segued from house paints into primarily artists materials. As the store became a mecca for artists, there was an increased need for  framing their works.

     In 1954 Lou moved his young family and business to Bethesda, his first store located on Old Georgetown Road at St. Elmo where he worked for ten years. He then upgraded to a larger store around the corner on St. Elmo where he remained for another ten years. These were golden years for Macco, the sole business in a ten mile radius which was dedicated exclusively to fine art materials both ordinary, unusual and high end to meet the needs of his exploding list of clientele which included numerous regionally- and nationally-recognized artists.

          Mr. Macco hired artists and art students to work in the store. He wanted staff who had hands-on knowledge of the chemistry, vagaries, and use of various types of paints, mediums, papers, canvases, brushes, and techniques, as well as the skill to demonstrate their uses. Staffers came on board with all levels of knowledge and experience but were required to learn about all the products and their use, basically getting an invaluable hands-on education to supplement high school and college work. Most of the Macco high school interns eventually went to college, many with four-year full scholarships in art.

       Although Mr. Macco never painted a single picture in his life, he spent hours with visiting artists materials representatives learning the chemistry and application of all the products. He was generous with his time, sharing his knowledge with anyone either trying to master materials and techniques or to hold “post-mortem” investigations of projects gone wrong. A logical segue, his many customers and a few local galleries soon had him adding a new service of custom-stretched canvases which, like everything else he undertook, he mastered to perfection. He prided himself on stocking an impressive range of imported Belgium linen canvases which Macco sold exclusively.

    Since its inception,  Macco has been and remains a family business. For many years his children worked part and later full time with him though eventually they married and/or moved out of the area. Following the death of his first wife in 1980, he remarried in 1985, gaining a new wife and business partner, Barbara. During the same time, Macco moved a third time to 8311 Wisconsin Avenue. Barbara had her own business as a calligrapher, manuscript illuminator and gilder, and these skills made for an easy transition into the framing business. In the late 1980s, Barbara began taking informal lessons in advanced framing techniques and framing restoration from a regular customer, the late Stanley Robertson of Scotland, a renowned international expert on frame restoration. Soon these advanced techniques – hand-ruled French lines, custom-painted decorative panels, marbled and gilded strips, and wrapped fabric mats – were regular offerings to the framing part of the business.

      In the late 1990s Mr Macco’s health deteriorated and the daily operation of the business fell  to Barbara. Following a major stroke and subsequent long-term rehabilitation, Barbara decided to close the commercial Macco door, liquidate the artists materials segment of the business and move the framing to their home basement. Macco was thus re-invented as an appointment-only home-based business which continues to present. Barbara remains the sole owner and operator,  excepting the very occasional helping hand from former employees, and the guarantees that all work will be done by her. Having the business home-based allows Barbara to continue to expand the custom, reallycustom, services and personal attention to all clients regardless of their budgets and framing needs.

Macco of Bethesda
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