Naper Wow Pow: Nona Jo’s wooden block photo holders

Wooden block photo holders have always been a big seller at Nona Jo's, a gift and decorations shop on the corner of W 5th Avenue and Mill Street. The frames come in two sizes, cost $24 or $32, and are handmade by the various members of this family business. Custom orders available also.  |  Daina Saleh~Sun-Times Media
Wooden block photo holders have always been a big seller at Nona Jo's, a gift and decorations shop on the corner of W 5th Avenue and Mill Street. The frames come in two sizes, cost $24 or $32, and are handmade by the various members of this family business. Custom orders available also. | Daina Saleh~Sun-Times Media

With the advent of digital photo frames, who would have thought the old-fashioned kind would turn out to be so popular.

For Nona Jo’s, handmade wooden block photo holders became a quick success — surpassing all the family-owned gift shop’s expectations.

When Nona Jo Fowler and her daughters, Jennifer White and Leigh Bratta, decided to open the store in 2007, they were not prepared for the massive demand on their block photo holders.

“We started out with the kind that had a metal front, kind of like a magnet board,” says Bratta, who like sister White, started helping their mother, Nona Jo, with her arts and crafts as long ago as they can remember. “But the wooden frames with the patterned paper background have been our best seller ever since we opened about eight years ago.”

Each crafted piece is fitted with a clip that can hold photos, gift cards or maybe just a note. The clip makes it possible to quickly change what’s on display.

Each member of the family has a role to play in the manufacturing of the blocks.

“My father and father-in-law buy the wood, cut it to size, paint it and give it that distressed look,” chuckles White, who even reels in her college-bound daughter to help. “I kind of run a sweat shop!”

“My sister and mom are best at the toppers,” jokes White, who says the creative genes have forever run in the family, starting with their grandmother.

Sister Bratta jumps in to add: “And Jennifer paints the clips.”

“We call it the block party,” White laughs.

Cute toppers using neutral-colored ribbons and burlap give each block a finishing touch, Bratta says.

Having tried several sizes, the sisters have found the simple square blocks, 7-by-7 inches and a slightly smaller 6-by-6 inch, work best. The cheetah pattern is always high in demand, and the paisley pattern is a long-time favorite.

“Customers also like the sports themed and the neutral ones, depending on the occasion,” Bratta explains.

Block frames are also a great accessory for weddings, and the sisters are in the midst of designing a baby line.

“We don’t just want to do the pinks and blues. More a white shabby vintage baby,” White.

Nona Jo’s, 410 W. Fifth Ave., also offers a variety of services, starting with party planning all the way to in-home design consultations, and custom designed floral bouquets, fresh or silk, made for any occasion. Call 630-35-4488 or visit www.nonajos.com for more information.

Share your product with the community by emailing Daina Saleh at dainasunbiz@gmail.com.

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