This Handcrafted Italian Picture Frame Manufacturer Demonstrates the Importance of Workplace Culture

Roma Moulding
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Roma Moulding is the world leader in wholesale manufacturing of quality, handcrafted Italian picture frames, and it distributes its products around the globe. The thirty-four-year-old business was incorporated in September 1984 in a classic immigrant success story.
Two brothers and a brother in law had separate jobs before the company was founded, and one was a photographer who sold framed photos at his studio. John Gareri worked for his brother-in-law part-time to help with the framing and had an idea to increase the value of the frames.

“If you use better quality goods and you are very creative, people are willing to spend more money, and he instantly saw a niche there that he could capitalize on. He asked his brothers-in-law if they wanted to join him, and the rest was history,” says Roma Moulding Chief Executive Officer Tony Gareri.

The photography studio was closed to ensure that the focus would be put on the Italian picture frame business, and Roma Moulding was established in Woodbridge, Ontario. What the trio lacked in formal education, they made up for with their will to work and their determination to bring forth what they believed to be the world’s finest quality handcrafted picture frames.

The company grew naturally by over delivering on service one customer at a time. Five years later, Roma opened its first distribution center in California to supply the growing need in the United States market. It soon expanded to New Jersey and Atlanta, and it now also has two affiliate warehouses in Western Canada in addition to its Toronto headquarters. The handcrafted products made by Roma are sold primarily through brick and mortar stores that offer retail custom framing, as well as specialty big-box stores, and interior designers.

“We have 125 awesome team members, and we are here undeniably because of the great people who have joined our team throughout the years,” Tony says proudly. “Everything is somewhat commoditized, so for us, we believe our only true competitive edge that cannot be emulated is our company culture.” Tony himself joined the company in 1999 and by March of 2011, had worked his way up to CEO, bringing with him his philosophy for business success: “Happy People = Happy Employees = Happy Customer = Success.”

Roma believes that fostering a supportive workplace culture results in a happy company with employees who strive to ensure customers are satisfied, which, in turn, keeps customers coming back. “In a simple form, that is our recipe for success, because ultimately people will remember what you gave them, and they’ll remember how you served them, so that’s been our true differentiator, and it’s actually part of our driving force today,” says Tony.

Roma is growing steadily in a market that is continuously shrinking by focusing on the well-being of its team and remaining loyal to its core values. “We really doubled down on our values, on our mission, on our vision, and certainly on our purpose. That has led us to attract the finest talent in the industry, and they are, in turn, what fuel our growth. They are, in turn, what give Roma its brand promise.” Unsurprisingly, the hiring process to become a member of Roma is lengthy and not easy.

The company has always supported various partners and charitable organizations in Canada, the United States, and abroad, yet Roma decided to start a program of its own. Roma Wish is a foundation that does mission work around the globe and has completed five missions so far. The first mission was in Haiti, and the most recent was in Detroit. “We select a small group of people annually to go into a community, work with them, and do our best to make their lives a little bit easier or happier. Whether it’s in Haiti in an orphanage, in a soup kitchen in New York City, or gutting homes in Louisiana, we do mission work that we feel is very much aligned with our values and our mission,” says Tony.

Roma has won several awards throughout the years, and it was pleased to be a finalist in the 2017 best boss contest run by management consultant firm Predictive Success. In 2018, it won ‘Canada’s Top Small and Medium Size Employers Award’ as well as the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce ‘Innovation and Manufacturing’ award. The greatest rewards are, of course, happy customers, and the company’s recent Pulse Survey revealed its Employee Net Promoter score suggested that 87.8 percent would recommend Roma Moulding to their family and friends.

Retail challenges are considered to be opportunities for change and growth rather than barriers. Its plan of action is to develop its current customer relationships further. “How we’re overcoming a shrinking market is we’re doubling down; we’re going deeper with our partners rather than wider, and that’s been a strategy we’ve adopted for a number of years,” says Tony. “We don’t feel there are any challenges that we can’t overcome.”

Part of the challenge is low-priced foreign goods, and Roma overcomes this by designing proprietary goods that cannot be duplicated easily. It also differentiates itself by providing a superior customer experience during all business interactions including package delivery, product details and obsessing about the customer experience.

Roma has no problem adapting with the retail market as it changes. “It will take a concerted effort, hard work, tenacity and perseverance, but we’re blessed that we’re in a marketplace where we have the people that are able to identify these challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles,” says Tony. E-commerce trends continue to drive change for Roma as it works to stay ahead of its customers’ needs.

The company strives to purchase all of its raw materials from sustainable resources, and this is a bit of an anomaly in the industry, as it is the only framing company that purchases solely from Italy. Europe has the highest standards for sustainably harvested wood products, and Roma chooses to abide by these regulations, rather than using the lower standards in other places of the world that are known to wipe out forests and dispose of waste improperly.

“Sustainability is a continuous push, and we believe that there’s a need for that responsibility within our industry. We’re moving more towards that every day, and we’re looking forward to our company becoming FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) within the next twelve months,” says Tony. Company efficiency is very important at Roma, and this includes eliminating waste and implementing lean and Six Sigma ideologies within the organization.

Roma decided to concentrate on happiness within the workplace over seven years ago, and the results have truly paid off. “Our company is fuelled by our culture, and we believe that’s our only true competitive and sustainable edge,” says Tony. “It’s been our calling card; it’s been the true differentiator for us, and it is responsible for the success of the business.” As a result of his strong focus on this philosophy, Tony Gerari now delivers keynote speeches to various organizations in Canada and the U.S. His goal is to create awareness about the importance of workplace culture and the damaging effects of a negative atmosphere.

Roma also hosts tours in its facilities to demonstrate what makes the company great and to provide others the opportunity to benefit from it. “Seven years ago, someone did that for me, and it changed my life, so, therefore, I open our company up in hopes that it can change another workplace because I ultimately believe workplace happiness should be a right and not a privilege.”



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