This coming March FotoTechnika will celebrate its 32nd anniversary of full-time operation.
When we opened in 1987, one-hour labs were all the rage. That was before the drugstores, grocery and department stores had one-hour labs in-house, but even so, there were independent photo labs all over town, and they came and went in a hurry. We never intended to follow the transitory one-hour lab business model; we always wanted to provide more customized services, unlike other labs. During our first year, we were told that we would soon be history, but now we are the last lab standing in Northeast Florida. We believe the reason we have outlived the other labs is because of our original vision and philosophy for the business: to bridge the photo and printing industries, and to treat customers’ work as if it were our own.
Over the years, members of our staff have attended Photo Marketing Association (PMA) and other industry-related tradeshows, from Las Vegas, New Orleans and Atlanta, to Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach, and Orlando. The last time Saundra and I went to a PMA trade show was in Las Vegas, 2009. Alas, there are no more PMA shows; the camera manufacturers decided to focus their attention on the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), so about six years ago PMA faded away. So, over the last decade, Saundra and I have watched technological improvements from afar.
In the last half of 2018, we received a wake-up call when our longtime employee, Brian Wanta, and Saundra’s sister both passed away unexpectedly. As we and the business both get older, Saundra and I must consider how to keep FotoTechnika going long after we are gone. We’ve watched other photo-related businesses succumb to either sluggish economies or owners’ retirements or deaths, and we don’t want the same thing to happen to the business we have worked so hard to grow. We believe we can prepare for the future and create a succession plan by learning new technologies, investigating new markets, hiring and training additional staff, and by upgrading aging and inefficient equipment. We believe the best way to get that process going is to attend a trade show/conference that specializes in our industry, and luckily there is such an event coming up in March.
In 2008 we had become members of an organization called Independent Photo Imagers (IPI), a group of over 600 labs and camera stores, so we attended an IPI Pow-Wow (mini-conference) at the 2009 PMA show. IPI works out special trade arrangements with vendors, but more importantly members share information, techniques and technology with each other. IPI has offered an annual conference/trade show (IPIC) each summer in Henderson, Nevada, just outside Las Vegas, but because of scheduling conflicts we have never been able to attend. This year the event has been rescheduled for first week in March (usually a much more pleasant time to visit), so we have decided to go. IPI members and staff have been begging us to participate every year, so we decided to take advantage of the opportunity. The IPI Conference is much more than a tradeshow – we will be networking with fellow members, sharing ideas and experiences; and we will also be attending at least a half dozen classes, for in depth training in areas that fit our needs. There are a host of technologies and equipment that we will be able to witness first hand, and they promise that we will learn new tips and tricks for production, in addition to learning how to enhance our web and social media presence. For Saundra and me this will be sort of like going back to college again (but just for three days).
While we’re at the show, the shop will be open with abbreviated hours from Monday, March 4th through Thursday, March 7th. From 10:00 am until 2:00 pm, Pamela Newton, Christina Cooper and Amanda Rosenblatt, our weekday employees, will help customers with orders on those days. They will be short-handed, so their time for actual production will be limited. Orders for film processing, large format and fine art printing can be dropped off, but actual production will have to wait until after Saundra and I return on Friday, March 8th.
We apologize for any inconvenience the adjusted schedule may cause, but we think the knowledge we will bring back will be worth the brief interruption in our services. Be sure to stay tuned to our Facebook page for regular reports while we attend.