FotoTechnika’s Big Changes
Just because FotoTechnika is no stranger to change doesn’t mean that change comes easily.
Since 1981, when we first incorporated, there have been countless changes in the photo industry. This post is dedicated to our most recent changes. Changes that happened at FotoTechnika in past decades would come under the heading of “evolution,” but I can honestly say that changes since early 2013 are more accurately characterized as “revolution.”
One change is this new blog format, not revolutionary, but since we are now using WordPress, you will have the opportunity to respond and share, whereas before, it was merely a read-only journal.
The biggest change by far was moving from our original location, the venerable old house on Lomax Street near Five Points, to the last remaining Art Nouveau retail shopping center in Jacksonville.
Moving from a location that had been our home since FotoTechnika first incorporated back in 1981 was one helluva change, and almost daily someone asks, “So why did you guys move?” To put it simply, the old house just got to be too much. For years we wanted to upgrade technology, but more often than not, we had to forgo new machinery and software in favor of repairing an aging building that wasn’t well-suited for the type of equipment we use or need. Many customers thought it was “charming” to wind up the stairs to visit Brian in our fine art printing department – to us it was a little different. Since the majority of our staff is AARP-eligible, hauling supplies and equipment up and down stairs took its toll on us. We finally reached critical mass in early 2013 – one system after another started failing. Changes could wait no longer, but we realized it was unrealistic to upgrade in our present location, and it was better to move sooner rather than later.
Last March, as we were on our way to the Mudville Grille for dinner and to discuss changes in menu design with owner Louis Joseph, we noticed that there were two adjacent spaces in the plaza that were empty. When we inquired, Louis told us that they were indeed available and that we needed to speak to his dad, the property’s owner, Joe Joseph. Scarcely a week later, we were shaking hands with our new landlord, becoming the newest arrival to the St. Nicholas landmark.
In April, we spent evenings and weekends painting the first half of our space at 3119 Beach Boulevard. Early May marked the first big move of equipment and file cabinets, and in the middle of the month, we had Konica Minolta move and re-install our C6000 digital press. In June, Joe and various contractors gutted and completely remodeled the space at 3115 Beach, modifying his plans along the way to suit our needs. In August, I opened the new store daily from 11:00 till 2:00, but the really big moves took place in September, so that on October 1st we officially moved front counter operations. By the end of the month, all of the equipment was out of Lomax. The move certainly helped me tone up, but being in my late fifties, I bruise a lot easier than I used to, and pulled muscles take just a bit longer to heal – one might think I was auditioning for Fight Club 2.
Another change was the equipment we didn’t bring with us. In Spring 2013, one of our most reliable workhorses, my Noritsu 3011 minilab, suffered a laser burn-out. We determined that we would be better served acquiring another minilab than to spend upwards of $7000 for a laser on a machine that might fetch $1000 on the used equipment market and for which the manufacturer no longer offers service. After quite a bit of weighing the pros and cons, we also decided not to move our 30” ZBE Chromira silver halide printer. Plumbing, space, and pressurized air requirements made it unfeasible in our new location, so we used the machine until the last possible minute at the Lomax location. We also decided to retire our 26-year-old E6 processor in favor of sending the film to a sister lab in Gainesville that still has enough volume to keep chemistry in balance.
In early November, the equipment upgrades started when we took delivery of a Noritsu 3300 minilab. In essence, it is the grandbaby of our 3011. It produces prints from wallet size to 8”x16.5” on Fuji Crystal Archive paper, and it has one feature that our old minilab lacked – the ability to scan and print mounted 35mm slides. On the 22nd of November, our first Canon printer, a 60” wide iPF9400 was delivered. With the help of Allison Spooner, a color management goddess who trained us on our Konica Minolta digital press, we got the Canon set up in record time. Good thing: we had some massive jobs that had stacked up in the three-plus weeks we were without a printer. Toward the end of December, our ailing Roland printer finally died, so Brian inherited the Canon 9400, and we purchased a 44” Canon, which arrived on January 3rd. Talk about learning curves….
But we haven’t just changed equipment: in many ways we are changing or at least augmenting the way we do business. We’ve had a web presence for a decade, but until 2009 our website was of the “read-only” variety. Some folks loved it because it offered so much information, but some said it was an everything-you-never-really-wanted-to-know waste of cyberspace. In 2009, we added a second website specifically to allow customers to upload their jpeg image files over the internet for printing; since then, it has grown in popularity every year. With all the physical changes to our operation, we decided it was high time to consolidate our website into a more functional, up-to-date reflection of who we are. We asked the folks at Dakis (who created our second website) to help us, since the bulk of their business is creating sites for independent photofinishers and camera stores all over the world. They allow us to take creative control of our website by furnishing us with numerous template options, so Saundra, Sarah, and I can come up with design, content, and photos. We lay it all out in Photoshop, then send files to them so they can wave their magic wands and miraculously make our designs a website. The big changes on the updated website are several DIY features, which allow customers to create their own art and photographic gifts. Visit our Photo Factory to get started.
Over the years, our most successful marketing has always been by word-of-mouth – no need to change that, but isn’t word-of-mouth what social media is all about? So I’ll wrap up this post by asking you to share this blog and our website with your friends, family, and colleagues. We have products and services to offer just about everyone. If you are in the St. Nicholas area, by all means, drop by and see the changes for yourself.
John and Saundra Howard founded FotoTechnika in 1981. To find out more about their history, see “About Us.”