My Dad, Our Founder
There are countless stories of really great dads. Men who support us. Teach us. Inspire us. Set the bar high. If you’re fortunate, you were raised by one. Or, you were taken under the wing by a father-figure who, though not actually related by blood, truly believed in you.
Great dads are priceless. Ron Mickel, our dad and founder of our company, was beyond priceless to me and so many others who had the opportunity to know him.
Dad was a very cool man. Smart. Charismatic. Handsome. A tinkerer. A dreamer. A visionary. People loved him.
It has become industry common knowledge that he was the one, THE guy, who figured out that the Nielsen® metal picture frame, originally marketed to frame shops in the early 70s, could be custom cut and sold in pairs like stretcher bars, delivered directly to artists through the mail. It was, and continues to be, the simplest and most economical solution to the question of how to frame art.
But as his oldest child, that’s not how I saw it at all. Frankly, I thought the whole idea was a bit strange. Entrepreneurship back then was not highly regarded as it is today. Let me continue.
Like many American dads, ours was a master craftsman. In addition to his frame shop and gallery (The Ron Mickel Gallery – Northwest Ohio’s first modern art gallery), he kept a little corner of our family garage for his tools, work bench, and eventually, a metal saw. It was there, in his corner of our garage, where he crafted his first custom-cut metal sectional picture frames.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
As with many middle-class households of that era, my siblings and I weren't allowed to enter the house through the front door. There were strict rules. We were to enter through the side, pass through the garage, and deposit our coats and shoes in the back hallway, keeping the front of the house presentable for guests, usually artists who were working with my parents or other members of our crazy family. One afternoon after school, there was dad, in the freezing cold, in the garage, cutting metal picture frames. I thought he was nuts, and I said so, loud and clear, with a sassy teenage eye roll and a stomp into the house. ‘What in the world are you doing now???” I then went about my business, and he went about his. While at the time I had wished dad was more like my friends' fathers with a ‘real’ job, he would have none of that. He chose the path of risk for independence and possibly, potential reward. I didn’t understand. Today, I do.
My sister Dana, reviewing documents with our dad, as he mentored through his final days.
So how is one ‘raised’ by a person like him? The answer for me was side-by-side, with a few gap years in between.
In the early days, dad's store and gallery was a mile from our South Toledo home. It wasn’t unusual for me to hop on my bike and go ‘help’ at the store for a few hours. For me, it was fun and valuable and I suspect it was for him too. I learned how things ran, how to work, and how to stay steady and committed to an idea in the face of so many competing opportunities and obstacles. These are key lessons serve me well to this day.
Years later, after earning our degrees and gaining some outside experience, my sister Dana and I both came back into the company where we enjoyed dad's mentorship and partnership for nearly 30 years. During that time, the three of us together, dad and his two daughters, cemented a love of our collective work and formed a bond that transcends a lifespan. This is what great dads do. They set the example, provide love and mentorship, delve into the work, and guide through the ups and downs. Yes, we were lucky. We still feel the pain of his passing and miss him terribly. We hope, when you think about your own father or father figure, you have similarly good memories. Moreover, if you are a dad, a mentor, a coach, a teacher- if you’re privileged to this role, know how absolutely critical you are and especially today, celebrate your impact.
Happy Father’s Day.