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Design Stores

Alternative Arts

Posted by Staff / Posted on October 11, 2007

Alternative Arts is a well-regarded framing store that also sells a variety of prints, cards and stationary.



/ February 23, 2009 at 07:56 pm
I am an artist & doll maker. I went in Alternative Arts today to look for posters of desert scenes or amusement park scenes to use as backdrops for my doll movie I'm making. I'm really having a hard time finding such posters.

Unfortunately ( my mistake) I brought my 80 year old mother with me(she has personality issues and can't help the things she says...torettes maybe). The man who called it "his store" made such a stink about my mother's rudeness so I defended my mommy and told him he shouldn't react. He then kicked us out of his store before I even could look for these much needed posters.

I would've spent big bucks if I found what I was looking for but now I will never go in there again...this man should be more tolerant and should've just kept quiet I think****he should learn some people skills don't you think? Does anyone know where I could find some good scenic photographic posters of amusement parks or deserts? *cj*
replying to a comment from / March 19, 2009 at 07:09 pm
I'm sorry for your experience there. I can't fairly comment in writing on the place since I worked there for long enough, let's say. I'm also sorry the boss hasn't changed much; but you gave me the best excuse to laugh. It was quite a picture and I could only guess at the actual words. Anyway to be honest most of the shops
I've seen in this city are the same. As for your search, try the
AGO gift store; they used to be into posters of all types.
/ April 16, 2009 at 04:03 pm
Since when is being rude in a store every one else's problem but the person being rude? We all love our mothers and would fight tooth and nail for them, but even they need to abide by boundaries. From what you say, he had every right to ask your mother to settle down. Far too often staff don't say anything to people regarding their behaviour. Remember that you even say that it was "your mistake" to bring your mother. So suck it up and go back without your mom.
Anonymous / August 12, 2009 at 03:05 pm
I do not recommend this store. First of all, there was a clear "this is what you want" attitude. Didn't even wait to hear what I wanted. In-store selection was ok, but limited. Prices start at $150 to frame a tiny print and go way up from there - materials appear to be high quality. Owner comes across as snobbish and tempermental. Ruined my whole day. I came in with 3 prints. Place was dead, both staff talking on the phone. We took 40min to try different mats and a couple of frames. In the end, not many options - I only liked what they had for one of the prints - it was $160 to frame a 4" picture. I walked away with quotes for the 3 photos on the back of their card. I passed another shop and dropped in to see what they had. I got exactly what I wanted for 2 of the photos for 1/2 the price! I then went back to Alt.Arts to frame the remaining picture. The owner gave me a lecture on how I wasted 2 hours of their time, on how the other store is inferior to them, and that I was no longer welcome at their store. "I do not want your business", he said. Do you belive this guy? I wasted his time… This is your job! What about wasting my time? And yes, I am going to shop around. You think I am just going to walk off the street and drop $500 in your lap. Sir, customer loyalty is earned.
Satisfied customer / November 4, 2009 at 11:02 pm
I haven't had a bad experience with Alternative Arts in the 10+ years I've shopped there. I found them helpful and professional. I *have* had frazzled people interrupt me while I've worked with a clerk. The staff are patient to a point, and like all human beings, dislike being treated like a servant. Come to this store with plenty of time and an expectation to learn about framing, matting, prints vs posters, and more. Presentation is just as important as the artwork itself. Every print we've had framed (and we aren't rich or frivolous) has worked out beautifully. You definitely get what you pay for.
Anonymous / February 22, 2010 at 12:44 pm
Still can't get over how rudely I was treated at this store. One of the worst customer service experiences in my life. And for what?
GREAT QUALITY & SERVICE / March 10, 2010 at 10:01 am
I have been a customer of this store since my University days, when I couldn't afford to pay the full price up front, and the owner was generous enough to always allow me to pay in installments. He knew I was a "starving" student but loved the arts, and he treated me with just as much respect as any other customer and always dedicated enough time to help me make the right decisions. and that is key: time. YOu need to make time and allow yourself to be properly informed on all they can offer you! They always work within your budget but always educate you on how it could be a bit better - so you know for next time!
Now, many years later, I am still a huge fan of this store, the people who work there and the quality of work they produce. I would recommend this place to everyone. Their variety of frames are incredible, their knowledge and expertise, impressive! Every single piece of art that we have purchased or framed here (over time), has caught the attention of all our friends & guests (and we didn't go out of our way to show them off!).

Great store.
Original art work.
Impressive quality.
Professional service.
Love it.
GREAT QUALITY & SERVICE replying to a comment from / March 10, 2010 at 10:03 am
I have been a customer of this store since my University days, when I couldn't afford to pay the full price up front, and the owner was generous enough to always allow me to pay in installments. He knew I was a "starving" student but loved the arts, and he treated me with just as much respect as any other customer and always dedicated enough time to help me make the right decisions. and that is key: time. YOu need to make time and allow yourself to be properly informed on all they can offer you! They always work within your budget but always educate you on how it could be a bit better - so you know for next time!
Now, many years later, I am still a huge fan of this store, the people who work there and the quality of work they produce. I would recommend this place to everyone. Their variety of frames are incredible, their knowledge and expertise, impressive! Every single piece of art that we have purchased or framed here (over time), has caught the attention of all our friends & guests (and we didn't go out of our way to show them off!).

Great store.
Original art work.
Impressive quality.
Professional service.
Love it.
D. Patrick / November 20, 2010 at 03:55 pm
Love this store. Great results and good input on finding what you want. Best framers in town, I don't go elsewhere anymore. I've had a lot of help from staff -- it feels like going to an arts studio with some friends.
Aleks / February 8, 2011 at 09:50 am
i have to say...i'm reading these comments about the owner/staff being rude and i disagree completely. i have gotten work done here twice and the staff has always been very accommodating when working with my rather limited budget. i even spent a half hour talking to the owner about framing options, settling on a price and frame, just to leave and change my mind (after reconsidering whether i could afford it); i called him asking him to change to a pre-made frame and it was not a problem at all. no attitude, no rudeness, no "you wasted my time" speech. and he offered for me to pay in installments as well.

the staff and owner know what they're talking about and like any specialist will tell you what they honestly think (without forcing anything on you). they are also reasonably priced (to be honest, it seems prices among framing stores are pretty standard) and have a great selection.

i would recommend them, especially for students as they seem quite willing to work within your budget. that being said, i've had good experiences elsewhere too.
Citizen B / February 24, 2011 at 12:34 am
Beware of counterfeit Ork Posters at Alternative Arts. Walked by the store tonight and saw an "Toronto Ork" poster which looks alot like the real one, but is not. It also has a spelling error.

Buyer beware!
Pete / March 31, 2011 at 02:52 pm
The owner is such a jerk, and incredibly unprofessional. I got a couple of my albums framed as a gift for Christmas and there was mistakes with it (chip in the frame, wire in the back made the frame hang upside down). It took 3 months to get it back, and he would constantly talk over me and was so rude. NEVER GOING BACK! I've never met anyone that's as much of a jerk as him. I hope he goes out of business.
Anonymous / March 31, 2011 at 04:09 pm
Where to start? First off, I DO NOT and will NEVER recommend giving the owner of this business your money, ever. If there is one thing that you want to learn from this story I am about to share, make sure that you DO NOT make ANY investments at this business, EVER. Please do learn from misfortune.
Upon entering this seemingly well-run business, I ordered two pieces from this "man" who claims to be the owner of Alternative Arts (and who also claims that he has had 17 years of "successful" business running this place).
After receiving a call to inform me that my pieces were ready for pick-up, I had arranged for a friend to pick them up, as I was home for the holidays and was unable to get them myself - note, these pieces were a Christmas gift of my boyfriend’s two albums for his new studio. Anyways, when the pieces were in my hands, I examined them to see if everything was okay - it definitely was not. Here is a list of problems that I had, and the list of excuses I was given.
Problem #1 – After 17 years of "successful business", apparently this “man” does not know how to attach the wire of the back of the frame correctly. Instead of the wire being attached to the top of the frame as it is supposed to be (in order to hang it up on the wall), it was on the bottom of the frame.
Excuse #1 – Apparently, the owner claims that he and his staff members examine each of their pieces before they are given to the customer – I’m sorry, but what? Anyone who does a routine check on a custom frame product knows that the wire to hang a frame should be on the top, not the bottom (that is what this business does, right? Custom framing?)
Problem #2 – Most often, when you invest in two pieces that amount to approx. $400, you want your product to be in perfect condition, no? Well, had I known that my frames would be dented in the corners when I first received them, I would not have given this “man” my money.
Excuse #2 – I cannot recall his exact excuse, but he had said that sometimes when they order and receive the frame pieces, it arrives with defaults. If I cannot be ensured that I will receive a perfectly custom made product, then why is this place still in business?
Problem #3 – The cut around the CD in the frame was jagged at some spots.
Excuse #3 – The owner was quick to say that the cutter they have sometimes does that and therefore, sometimes it make a smooth cut. He mentioned that they need to get a new cutter. Are you kidding me? Are you seriously going to keep giving me excuses, or are you going to live up to your mistakes?
Now, at this point, I remained calm. I called Alternative Arts and mentioned that I was not happy about a few things. They recommended that I take it back to the store so they could fix my problem – great (one would at least think so, right? Wrong). I was told that the fixes would take about 2 weeks (mind you, I was also told that the dents were not fixable – WTF?) However, this is where the second set of problems occurred.
2 weeks went by – no call. 3 weeks – nothing. A month goes by; you would think I would get some kind of update on the condition of my pieces – nothing. I decided that I would take it upon myself to call them. The owner gave me an update alright – they experienced a flood. Okay, that sucks and all, and yes, this is something that is beyond our control – but why have you not called me to let me know what is going on with my $400 pieces? Anyways, I had not been given an exact date about when my pieces would be ready for pick-up. Now, at this point, my boyfriend wanted to put up these pieces in his new studio – do you blame him? Not having this in his hands upset him and me more so.
So here we sat, playing the wait game. Another week goes by and still, no call. Again, I had to be the one to contact THEM on the update of THEIR problem (which was now, mine). Let me add – I am a very understanding person. I get that a flood in your basement is not ‘your fault’ – but can you at least pull yourself together and dedicate a few minutes of your time to call back your customers and let them know what is happening? Maybe throw in a discount of a possible next purchase to calm my infuriated temper? No, you cannot. You have no sense of customer service skills whatsoever.
Finally, the owner takes a hint – after calling many times to get an update on my product, they finally gathered that calling me to keep me in the loop would be a good idea. The owner called sometime in February to let me know that my piece was safe away from the flooding in a warehouse. He adds in another excuse – he told the people who were moving the pieces to not take the finished prints, but hey, wow, they didn’t listen to him apparently. It was apparently beyond his control, yet again. My pieces were in a warehouse that he could not yet get to.
AGAIN, more waiting. FINALLY – I receive a call sometime in March (note: I ordered these prints and received them before Christmas, and dropped them off in January to get fixed, and then did not receive them back until the end of March; this puts us up to 3 months of waiting for the owner to fix a combination of problems that were all “beyond his control”).
So here we are – at the store to pick up my product that needed 3 months to be fixed due to circumstances that HE could not fix. Well, said owner of Alternative Arts, when did you make any sort of attempt to AVOID being an arrogant asshole on the phone with such a defensive tone of voice and offer me some kind of discount to ensure that I may understand how “sorry” you were? Never. Not once. At this point, I had held my temper and bit my tongue many times in order to ensure I receive a better final product. As I walked into the store, I had told him that I had been the one waiting for 3 months for my pieces and that I was here to pick them up. He asked for my name, walked down to the basement to pick up my pieces, and came back up. One would THINK that he would begin by saying how SINCERELY sorry he was (I say this, because all his other apologies followed with some kind of arrogant and rude defensive remark that had otherwise been understood as an excuse for bad service and many mistakes that had been made). Again, one would also think that he would provide some kind of gift certificate or discount on the next purchase right away ($5 would have even made me feel better after all this trouble I had been put through!!!!) I had been given no kind of apology when I was there, face to face with him. He was giving no kind of discount – so I released the anger within. I had told him that he was an arrogant prick and that he has no idea how to handle customer service. I told him that I will never ever attend this place ever again, and that I will do whatever I can to tell everyone I know NOT to shop here. ALSO, let me add in, that you ever want to get a point across to this “man”, I suggest you TELL him to allow you to talk, and to not talk over you. This is another quality of him that I did not enjoy – one that made me feel like I was not right in how dissatisfied I felt. To make matters EVEN WORSE, there had been a black dot under the frame on a white background!! Wouldn’t you think that he would check those pieces up and down after what we went through?! And guess what? He had another excuse!! At this point, I could care less to listen to his excuses. He mentioned that the printer or printing press had made that dot – but there is nothing printed on the pieces? WHAT IS THIS “MAN’S PROBLEM??!
Here is the kicker – by the end, I told him that I could not believe that he didn’t offer any sort of discount or anything to compensate for what he had put me through. His response? “I was going to give you a gift certificate, but after this, I am not”. ARE YOU JOKING? This “man” is no adult, he is a child. He does not know how to treat his customers with respect and he likes to think that he is right about everything. He likes to think that there is an excuse for every problem that had been made and cannot “man up” or admit mistakes that had been made by his business. Oh wait – he did admit to the lack of calls that had NOT been made to me. Okay, great. But how can a child run a “successful business for 17 years?” I tell you all; he cannot and will not if he continues to treat his customers like shit. I hope his business goes bankrupt and shuts down in the near future.

Anonymous / June 10, 2011 at 04:03 pm
Wow...quite the novel you wrote there...must have a lot of time on your hands. Anyway, I have 10+ years in customer service/retail experience and I do have to say that the owner and staff of Alternative Arts are knowledgeable and helpful people. The framer knows what she's doing and she will only show quality services/skills in terms of framing - she will never give out poor quality work. What I have learned over the years working within the Fine Arts is that good framing costs more than what people expect...if you bring in original art or items with sentimental value, why not pay the extra for custom framing, which would also protect the artwork or object over time. If you want to be cheap about things and really do feel that custom framing places are ripping you off, than go ahead, go to Ikea get a cheap frame with an acidic matt and regular glass with no UV protection so that you can save a few bucks, while your artwork will just degrade and deteriorate over time. I love customer service work because I can meet and talk with so many different types of people and personalities - but, there are also a few out of the bunch that irritate the hell out of me and I just sometimes want to slap them in the face (this would be the case where the customer is not always right), but I don't and I won't. Respect goes both ways. Sometimes things happen, but this is life right. Just relax. Alternative Arts has always produced exceptional custom framing and I highly recommend them. F.Y.I. the dude the down the street from them has competitive pricing, but I've seen the quality of the work and there's a reason why he can charge less.
Dave replying to a comment from Anonymous / June 18, 2011 at 02:28 pm
whom the hell has this much time to whine this much on blog?
Dave replying to a comment from Anonymous / June 18, 2011 at 02:29 pm
Who the hell has the time to whine this much on a blog?
Anonymous / August 10, 2011 at 01:43 pm
Owner is a hottie, would shop there just for that.
Payday Loans For Women / November 17, 2011 at 03:52 pm
I have read not one article on your blog. You're a big lad
Calder Falk / December 18, 2011 at 04:30 pm
I imagine that there are many people who have had positive experiences with the owner and the shop; I did, too, until there was a problem. I never had any quarrel with the staff; they were always helpful and friendly. I, too am not rich and I had to save up to get each print done- both the staff and the owner knew that it was hard for me to afford their work, which I did find exceptional and well-done almost every time. However, I was never offered an instalment plan; I wish I had thought to ask if that's how the one who commented got that deal. I spent several hundred dollars there, yet as soon as there was a difficulty (one of the prints had wrinkles in it), the owner acted without integrity or decency and refused to correct the problem (without charging extra) or take any money off. I was shocked and confused by his attitude, but I ended up finding a place called Adina photo that does excellent work, yet they sell frames already made up that are a little worse for wear, but made up of the same material as the unassembled wood for $5-15 a frame!
better than plaingreen loans / February 3, 2012 at 04:53 am
This is a set of words, not an essay. you are incompetent
Evonne / February 21, 2012 at 10:03 am
I also had a bad experience at this place.

I was having a painting framed there and was told it would be ready on Wednesday. I went on that day and it wasn't ready and they said that the framer had changed the date on the slip. They told me that it would be ready the next day. I was disappointed and didn't want to have to travel there again the next day after work. The frame was a present for my sisters wedding and I needed it before Friday.

I called and asked if I could have some sort of compensation like deliver it to my place or take a small percentage off. I was just surprised at the nonchalant attitude when he realized they made a mistake. So the owner got really pissed at me asking this and refused to frame the print even though he knew it was a gift I needed for Friday. I was so shocked at his over reaction. I was giving this guy $300 of my money and he was refusing it for no reason. It seemed at the time that he needed anger management classes! Fifteen minutes later he called me back apologizing saying the he was taking his bad day out on me. He then framed the painting and brought it to me the next day.

When he arrived it seemed as though he was doing something he didn't want to. Also the frame that I had gotten them to paint was chipped on the front face so you could see the wood underneath. He told me to touch it it. Why should I pay $300 for a frame and touch it up myself?

Despite his apology, I would never go back to this place based on customer service and quality.
He Kicks People Out / August 26, 2012 at 04:08 am
The owner convinced me to order a product from him and when it came in it looked very different from what I had expected. I communicated this to him and asked if it could be fixed. In addition, I wanted to be fair and decided to offer him a deposit at this time. The owner decided to be offended and kicked me out of his store. Seriously. That's never happened to me before but after reading these blog reviews it looks like it happens often at Alternative Arts in the Annex.

FYI, I ended up going to a different store (a little further south on Yonge) where the job was done in 1 day and for less money. Go somewhere else.
will never return / November 2, 2012 at 02:18 am
I echo the dissatisfied sentiments voiced throughout this forum. My husband and I have also experienced a) lack of accurate communication regarding readiness of framing b) constant delays c) poor quality work.

My husband and I wanted to enlarge a picasso single line sketch and have it framed. The first time it was done, there was not enough border left around the sketch so that the head of the sketch was just beneath the wood framing. The sales clerk was helpful to salvage the situation. All it cost me was for the enlarging fee (approximately $30 or so).

The revision was to take 2 weeks. I returned in two weeks and was told that my item was not ready because the owner had not gotten around touching up the photo on photoshop. I left and continued to visit the store a few more times growing ever more frustrated in the process. I left word with the sales staff to make sure to call me with news. Finally I receive a call to pick it up. My husband and I are met by the owner who apologizes saying he didn't realize this reorder was placed - he kept seeing the order thinking it was our original. We take a look at the framed piece (which cost over $150 to do at this point) and are shocked. The piece, though the margins are better, is totally pixelated, it looks like we just enlarged a jpeg file and had it framed. The whole point we had the owner do this was because he said he would smooth out the edges on photoshop to take care of this issue!

I had already paid for the framing and enlarging during one of my previous visits so my husband and I had no choice but to take this piece of crap and go home.

It now sits in our office as a reminder to a) never return to this store and b) never pay for artwork before seeing the finished product.

$150 may not sound like a lot, but for a piece of crap?; it's a fortune.
Same problem as above -- Poor Quality Work replying to a comment from will never return / November 27, 2012 at 01:47 pm
I had a very similar issue to the blogger above. I was looking for a particular piece of artwork. As oppose to ordering it, the owner offered to find the photo online and print it for me. I was skeptical, but the owner assured me that as long as he found an image that was large enough in size he would be able to photoshop it to make it look professional.

Big Mistake.

When the piece was printed it looked incredibly pixelated, very dark and largely unprofessional (for $80). It was so bad, I knew when I saw it that I wasn't going to hang it on my wall. I asked the owner if he could fix it. He angrily responded with "you saw the photo online" to which I responded "it just didn't print as I expected it to". He then told me to keep my money and kicked me out of his store. Do yourself a favour and go somewhere there is accountability for the work. This was the worst experience I have ever had in a retail store -- ever.

HORRIBLE SERVICE / January 31, 2013 at 12:57 pm
DO NOT GO HERE! The owner is rude. The service is bad. He damaged my picture and refused to fix it.
Anony / February 10, 2013 at 03:11 pm
I will not be returning. I have now had 4 bad experiences and think I have given them enough chances (each time I dealt with a different person, and thought that maybe, it would be better than the last).

1. Most recently I took a poster and a newspaper article in to be mounted. I stressed over and over (at least 5 times) that they needed to be the same size - when I brought them in, this meant them trimming about a quarter of an inch from either side, and leaving the top edges alone on the newspaper. I explained that I wanted them to do it since they had a large cutter there, and I would have had to use free-form scissors. I asked over and over as the girl seemed confused, but she said yes, they could do it. I showed her exactly what I wanted. When I picked them up a week later they had trimmed the newspaper so much that, not only was it far from the right size, but it had cut into the words on the side.

2. Previously I have gotten posters mounted there - the last time I got them back, they were badly dinged and chipped.

3. Their prices are extremely inconsistent. I always get the same sized item mounted, and depending on the day/cashier, they end up varying in price by up to $7. I don't know how this is as they look in a book that lists sizes by price.

4. When I tried to get a small print framed, they refused to listen to what I wanted done. The girl was insistent on me getting a large matte, even though I told her I didn't want one at all. She outright told me what I wanted would look terrible. I told her that I used to work in a framing store as well (which is true) and that I had posters framed the same way at home- I wanted them to match. She kept arguing and trying to add extra costs on top, making this small print cost $300 to frame. I told her that I would be happy to use a ready-made one if there was one the right size. She said there were but continued to argue with me, so I left without framing the piece.

This is on top of general rudeness and being ignored 90% of the time I'm in there. I will not be returning.
Peter / March 15, 2013 at 12:18 pm
I've been in here a few times. Essentially it's overpriced, esp when they frame something for you. But they do have good deals on posters, so it's a question of seeking out the deals, which are few but there are some. The staff are snooty, by the way. Sheesh, you're working retail, get over yourself.
Peter / March 18, 2013 at 10:33 am
I went back and ordered a Coltrane print with frame. I found them very helpful, and was pleased with the service I received.
K / September 28, 2013 at 03:57 pm
A few years ago, I had a poster printed on canvas, and I was very pleased with the entire experience. A few weeks ago, I went in to have another photo printed and framed, and though the prices were a bit high, I was so impressed the last time, I thought for sure that it would be worthwhile.

I have to say, they were very disorganised, and they gave vague time frames about when things would be ready (notwithstanding the fact that I had already paid in full). When I called to see if my picture was ready, I got a lot of attitude from the staff. Finally, four days after the picture was supposed to be ready, I got a call.

The picture was extremely dark, and I let them know I was unsatisfied. The owner started making excuses that glass darkens pictures, and that it wasn't his fault. He said, that that was precisely why people buy museum quality glass (which incidentally costs three times the amount I paid). He then had me look at the picture on a table top at 180 degree angle, and told me that the contrasts were in fact visible. Seeing as the picture would never hang at 180 degrees, it became clear to me that the guy simply can't take it when he makes a mistake. During the consultation, there was no mention of any foreseeable issues of this nature.

Eventually, I was able to convince him to adjust the brightness and reprint. He agreed to do this free of charge, though he was a bit pouty about it. He also suggested that if I needed any more touch-ups, Photoshop work begins at $50 per hour. He said the picture would be ready in a few days. I took that to mean three days.

A week passed, and I called to ask about it. "Either today or tomorrow." Two more days went by, and still no phone call. I called back a full week later and mentioned that I expected to pick it up that day. He completely lost his cool, he told me I could have my money back, and then he hung up the phone on me.

This is one of the worst customer service experiences I have ever had in my life. The owner of Alternative Arts thinks that he is doing you a favour. He simply lacks the common sense to realise that he is running a business, and that catering to the public (as long as there is mutual respect) is what he does. I am not a rude or demanding person, and my expectations are realistic. When I pay top dollar for something, I expect that it will meet or exceed my expectations. I'm so happy I got my money back.
Carlos Danger / September 28, 2013 at 04:03 pm
The owner is emotional and unprofessional. Fortunately there are tonnes of alternatives to Alternative Arts.
Unimpressed / December 6, 2013 at 08:45 pm
Such terrible service. The people that work there have no idea what they're doing. Pretty sure that the owner will go out of business soon.
Horrible store / December 7, 2013 at 01:49 am
I went here for some framing and had an awful experience.
The place is very expensive which I don't mind if I'm getting what I pay for. They basically charge you twice what the place down the street charges but provide you with with shotty work.
The owner is a short tempered man has no professionalism.

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