More than meets the U-haul: Framing business tucked away behind moving trailers

Pat (left) and Ken Wray hold one of their recently finished works at their shop on the Hay River Highway. Angele Cano/NNSL photo

Pat (left) and Ken Wray hold one of their recently finished works at their shop on the Hay River Highway. Angele Cano/NNSL photo

Chances are on the drive into town that you’ve seen a large lot filled with moving trailers, many snow-covered now, without much thought to what lies behind them.

But that’s the location in which Ken Wray and his wife Pat have owned and operated K P Woodwright Framing since 2007. Although the business of preparing photos, paintings, art and other images is thriving, they say people are often surprised to learn it exists. On Nov. 8, they had just finished custom framing and matting 50 items for a few different customers a process that take specific attention to detail and can cost between $150-$350.

“You have to makes sure that everything is lined up, the matte, the photo and the frame,” said Ken Wray. “It has to be precise. Even if it’s less than a quarter of an inch off, the picture could fall through the frame.”

The husband and wife team took training to learn the art of framing and matting in Edmonton, where they lived for 15 years after moving from Pine Point, NWT, where they also lived for 15 years.

But that’s not all they do. On Nov. 8, they has just sent out most of a flock of wood cut-out angels from their workshop for the beautification committee. They also prepared the colourful fish, pre-paint, which appear randomly around town.

They’re also into custom cabinets, countertops, surfaces and renovations, and helpful art to disguise crooked walls and tilted ceilings belonging to shifting homes in the North. Their office in the back displays exactly why custom is sometimes necessary: the space is small but appears large thanks to furniture that fits within its angles.

“In Hay River, the older homes are never straight,” said Ken Wray. “This way you can fit what you have to your cabinets and countertops to make them look straighter. It’s also a space saver for weirdly-shaped offices that need to use the space as best they can.”

The business employs one journeyman, one apprentice, the Wrays themselves and their lovable mutt Brodie, who is a fixture in the office.

With all the sawing, sanding and frame cutting, it’s hard to believe that moving trailers are what first catches the eyes of passers-by. Still, it’s an essential service to Hay Riverites, said Wray, many of whom move only when the snow melts. While winter tends to be a slower season, they are hopping in the summer renting out trailers. They have upwards of 30 trailers at three different sizes, a cost of $15-$30 per day if used to move locally.

“It’s nuts in the summertime,” said Ken Wray. “Over the last four years it has changed a bit, people are moving more in the winter, but once that snow melts sometimes only a few of the trailers are left behind.”

by Angele Cano