Magazine Article


High Flying Think Tank to Orlando

Minilab 2000

High Flying Think Tank To Orlando

Lots to Ponder on the Eve of PMA 2001

By Jerry Lansky

February 2001

In the old days, there were only two places I could go where I was totally incommunicado. (Well, actually, there is a third, but it's somewhat indelicate to talk about that in a family publication.) No one could find me or call me or ask me or anything. These moments of quiet, anonymous bliss would occur when I was either in my car or in an airplane.
In the car I could listen to whatever radio station I wanted to, drive faster than I should and even eat fries and a milkshake. No one to bother me and my thoughts were my own. Some of my best ideas were germinated in this environment.
Alas, the cell phone has now invaded the car and the options have dwindled down to just one, the airplane.
Back 'then', we had stewardesses, not flight attendants. Drinks were a buck, we got free macadamia nuts and a rack to hang our coats. To say the meals and leg room were great, would be a lie, but compared to today's offerings, they were great.
If nothing else, an airline trip remains the last bastion of opportunity to dwell on one's thoughts in some solemnity - that is, if you can ignore the knees of the passenger behind you as he tries to impale your lumbar. And, yes, there is still the anonymity on an airplane - unless you happen to be traveling to Orlando about February 10, with half of the plane filled with your competitors - friendly or unfriendly.
With that in mind, I contacted a number of minilab owners to find out what their private thoughts might be as they speed along at 30,000 feet toward the sunny (???) and warm (???) environs of Orlando. Needless to say, the subjects were varied and one even confessed that his major thoughts would be devoted to how he can find a buyer for his business. (So that you don't spend any time trying to figure out which of the below lab owners told me that, I'll tell you that I've not used his other quotes here.)

Pondering Digital
Was there a common thread that ran through the comments of the various owners? Yes. I think Jack Baluski summed it up for many of them when I asked what he'd be pondering on his plane trip and he said, "Digital - end of conversation." Jack owns Dover One Hour in Toms River, NJ, and has been doing the lab thing for 19 years. "I'm still having fun."
Not that Jack is a newbie to digital. He already runs an Agfa MSC-300 with DPU and Pixtasy and has three work stations, one of them running in conjunction with his studio. That's pretty digital already. "My next piece of equipment will be all digital," though he's not sure if anybody has what he feels is his next level system. Sounds like a good opportunity for the right salesman at the show.
Others will also be focusing on digital. Sid Davidowitz, owner of two successful Moto Photo labs in Northern New Jersey and a consultant to Moto, said, "I'll be thinking about which digital I'm going to buy." He specifically wants to see the Fuji Frontier 390 which is being introduced at the show. This is the third Frontier in the Fuji family claiming a throughput of 2,300 4R's an hour. Bring your checkbook, Sid. It has a list price of $210,000.
Sid feels strongly that to be competitive in the digital business it will be necessary to be able to print from digital files onto photo paper, at around 25-cents a square foot, not dye sub media at $2.00 per sq/ft.
Brian Noble, Noble Industries, Hingham, Mass., successfully runs five stores, two of them equipped with labs. On the matter of digital minilabs, Brian said, "The equipment is so whiz-bang, but so expensive." He already has two Agfa MSC300's, one of them equipped with a digital processing unit so he's not a newcomer to the digital business.
While he admits he's waiting for the Agfa D-lab.3, his special concern about digital equipment is the generally lower production rates. He said, "These digital units can do everything, but they can't get everything done." Factored in his decision to go digital will be a return-on-equity test.
Bernie Grossman, owner of Abbey's One Hour, Beachwood, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb, said that at first he and his wife Lynn were not going to attend the convention "but we didn't want to miss the technological changes." He said, "We need a front seat to what's going on."
Bernie operates a Noritsu 2301 that looks like it just came out of the box. I know because I saw it. What will he be thinking about on the plane: Trading in the 2301 for a Noritsu model 2611, a sort of digital/optical hybrid. One of his goals at the convention is to see how the software really works on the system. The lower payments interest him as well. Don't crowd the guy, folks, "we're making no decision at the show."

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