Meet Your Tahoe Merchant: Preserving memories at Pablo’s
June 27, 2013
What: Pablo’s Gallery and Frame Shop
Location: 475 North Lake Blvd., Tahoe City, in the Cobblestone Center
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Paul "Pablo" Karls stands in his upstairs studio, and as he measures frames and connects corners, he looks across the parking lot at the ground level storefront that used to be his place of business.
"It's sad looking down there," he says. "I see it every day. Going in and out of the same door, you get used to it."
Like so many, the recession greatly affected his business. In October of 2011, Pablo moved his gallery and frame shop to an upstairs unit in the same Cobblestone Center.
He misses the old location for its size and foot traffic, but is hopeful that he will move again to the bigger space.
“There’s always a story behind the objects people bring in.”
"It was hard to squeeze in to a smaller space," Pablo said. "But it's a huge cut back on rent."
Annette Szybalski, Pablo's former coworker and employee, says their days working together at Frames by Ryrie — and later when Pablo made the frame shop his own — were booming, although local support has helped the business through the dry seasons.
"It's a wonderful small town shop where most of the people who come in seem to come back for repeat business," she said. "People are very loyal to their framer; they find a framer they like and stick with him."
Pablo is a father of two but has the spirit of a 20-year-old. His curly hair, although now graying, is still wild, and as he answers the phone — "Pablo's!" — his youthful voice still carries a surfer dude's sound.
His spare time is devoted to camping and playing with his kids, and he says he still plays with watercolors here and there. His personal favorite photos, he says, are the ones of family — family photos line most of his walls at home.
Many of Pablo's customers come to him to preserve pictures and memories. The framer recently created a shadow box to house a customer's singular keepsake from his travels through Thailand.
"There's always a story behind the objects people bring in," Pablo said. "Every job is different and fun."
The silver flask-like object was once hung around the neck as the man explored different temples in Thailand. Now it floats inside the shadow box and the green and gold fabric lines the outside.
In his work, Pablo aims to highlight the piece and ensure it keeps its color and doesn't fade.
"There is so much art that comes back from different countries," he said. "It's to remember times on a trip or a vacation."
The curly haired ex-punk rocker says he likes to keep the integrity of the art, but never fears throwing in some color.
"Color is life," he says as he puts a bright orange matte behind a photo.
"He is an artist and he has a natural eye for color and design," added Annette.
Pablo recalls when his parents found the drawings and doodles on his high school textbooks.
"The covers, inside covers, and every page," he said. "And my parents knew they had to get me in an art class."
The artist has always been there. At 15, he says he was "yelping into the microphone" in old venues in San Francisco as the front man for a punk band.
Although he says his singing is now limited to when he blasts Green Day music with his kids, Paul and his band once opened for big names like the Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks and The Descendents.
As his garage band broke up and everyone went their separate ways, Pablo found himself at Lake Tahoe, learning the framing business and eventually owning the shop.
"It's an artists' town," he said. "It always has been an artists' town. People come from all over the world — we're lucky to be here."
Apart from custom framing, Pablo's Gallery and Frame Shop also sells a fun and colorful custom furniture line, greeting cards, prints and original artwork.
Pablo plans to put a small sandwich board out front to let customers know about his upstairs location. Pablo offers a locals' discount, as well as hanging and installation upon request.