DALLAS – Working with the motto “Keeping Traditions Alive,” Veteran-owned Freedom Frames brings an invaluable service of custom engraving, woodworking, awards and more to service members throughout Alaska.
Owned by retired Army 1st Sgt. Michael Bradley, Nicole Bradley and retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Dean Phillips Jr., Freedom Frames operates from its flagship store, founded in 2018, at the Fort Wainwright Exchange. The team has since opened Exchange storefronts at Eielson Air Force Base in June 2022 and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in July 2023.
Michael Bradley and Phillips both learned throughout their military careers how difficult and expensive procuring high-quality plaques, flashes and other awards could be. Bradley was inspired to join the Army after the Sept. 11 attacks, serving in the 82nd Airborne, while Phillips enlisted straight out of high school as a track vehicle mechanic.
“When I was a paratrooper, I was always the awards or plaque guy for the platoon, company or battalion,” Bradley said. “I found out early on that these awards were expensive on the open market.
“My father had taught me some wood crafting when I was younger, and I honed my own skills so that we could offer these to service members at an exceptional quality and at the lowest possible price that we can make them.”
That ability to craft products that are both more affordable and more customizable than what service members might be able to find off base is key to Freedom Frames’ success.
“I started getting into woodworking through my grandfather and have find that many times in the civilian community, there are just simple flat plaques,” Phillips said. “We offer service members much more customized products that are more closely geared toward their specific unit and geared toward being stationed in Alaska.”
Being able to bring their creativity to a variety of meaningful pieces has brought them no shortage of memorable moments.
“There are so many important projects we have worked on,” Bradley said. “We’ve always helped with creating guidons, and seeing the commanders pick them up is very meaningful to us, having been on both sides of that exchange.
“That’s one of the motivators for us—people can come to us with vague ideas, and we can be creative and craft a product that’s worthy of their wall space.”
Freedom Frames’ home with the Exchange has connected them with service members while harnessing Exchange’s business guidance.
“Since opening our first location at Fort Wainwright, the Exchange has supported and encouraged us to expand our footprint across the state of Alaska,” Nicole Bradley said. The services business managers we work with day to day are constantly working to help us grow and get better.
“They give us options for marketing, sales initiatives, space utilization, customer understanding, everything. We rely on them very heavily and the team helps us follow the Exchange’s lead and continue to serve those who serve us.”
Crafting unique and memorable products that will last for generations is a driving motivator for the Bradleys and Phillips.
“Our motto of ‘Keeping Traditions Alive’ is a bedrock to us,” Michael Bradley said. “As we served in the military, our leaders took care of us—not only by promotions, awards, ribbons.
“That thing that we can hang on the wall and tell our kids and grandkids about 20 years from now is that one step further. We can keep that history and tradition alive by passing something like that along from generation to generation.”
The Exchange is the country’s 54th-largest retailer with a customer base of 33.4 million shoppers, which includes active-duty Soldiers, Airmen, Guardians, Reservists, Guard members, Veterans, retirees, military dependents, qualified caregivers and DoD/Coast Guard civilians.
A variety of businesses work with the Exchange, including small concessionaires, name brand retailers, mall storefronts, kiosks, unmanned markets, and nationally or regionally recognized food brands. Partners also include health & wellness services such as dentists, optometrists and chiropractors, and personal services such as barbershops, dry cleaners and more.
Partnering with the Exchange offers business owners many benefits, including:
- Opportunities for Veteran- and military spouse-owned businesses.
- A proven environment for testing new products.
- A welcoming culture for entrepreneurs.
- Flexible leases, fees, and formats.
The Exchange operates in all 50 states, four U.S. territories and more than 30 countries, providing goods and services to military communities worldwide. Doing business with the Exchange allows owners to directly contribute to the Quality-of-Life of service members, as 100% of Exchange earnings are reinvested into military communities.
Retail wholesale businesses, long- and short-term concessions, personal services, vending and restaurant providers can find out more by visiting http://aafes.media/doingbusiness.
Those interested in supplying their products for Exchange retail stores or ShopMyExchange.com can create a free profile at http://www.rangeme.com/aafes to be connected with the appropriate Exchange buyer.
– 30 –
Since 1895, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (Exchange) has gone where Soldiers, Airmen, Guardians and their families go to improve the quality of their lives by providing valued goods and services at exclusive military pricing. The Exchange is the 54th-largest retailer in the United States. 100% of Exchange earnings support military communities. In the last 10 years, your Exchange benefit has provided $3.5 billion in earnings for critical military Quality-of-Life programs. The Exchange is a non-appropriated fund entity of the Department of Defense and is directed by a Board of Directors. The Exchange is a 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemorative Partner, planning and conducting events and activities that recognize the service, valor and sacrifice of Vietnam Veterans and their families in conjunction with the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration. To find out more about the Exchange history and mission or to view recent press releases please visit our website at http://www.shopmyexchange.com or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ExchangePAO.
For more information or to schedule an interview with an Exchange representative please contact Travis Day, 214-312-3534 or [email protected].
Follow the Exchange:
Marisa is a PR executive and writer in the Public Affairs department at Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES)