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Retailer Spotlight: Calagaz Photo & Digital Imaging
A Multidimensional Photo Dealer in the Digital Age


(l. to r.) Frank J. Calagaz Chairman, Joe Calagaz, VP, Digital, Pauline C. McKean, VP Photo (seated), Leo J. Calagaz, President
The exterior of the main Calagaz location in Mobile, Alabama.
Students listen intently during a seminar.
Calagaz offers its customers a warm, inviting, and comfortable environment.
Customers using the Digital Print Stations enjoy an open workspace.
The main location offers plenty of bright, open space; a large selection of product; digital print stations; and even a kids area (at bottom right of photo).

Calagaz Photo started in the garage of Frank and Bea Calagaz in 1949; and was incorporated in 1955, opening for business on Holcombe Avenue, in Mobile, Alabama. Frank and Bea’s children and grandchildren presently run Calagaz Digital Printing and Imaging. Frank J. Calagaz is chairman of the board, Leo J. Calagaz, president; Pauline Calagaz McKean is VP, Photo Sales, and Joe Calagaz, VP Digital. Currently Calagaz employs 30 people between their two locations. From the sales of glass plates in the very beginning, to the sales of printing and reprographic supplies from 1965 to 1982, to commercial printing and reprographic services, in addition to a full line of photographic products and photofinishing, Calagaz has certainly accommodated the changing needs of their customers.

Calagaz Photo & Digital Imaging has successfully weathered the changes in the photo retail marketplace over the past 50 years by following the changes occurring in the industry and adjusting their product/service mix to accommodate their customers’ needs and wants. “All of our changes are prompted by our analysis of changes in our marketplace,” says Pauline Calagaz McKean, VP of Photo Sales. “Up until 1991, we were a pure photo retailer, with full line camera stores and on-site processing. However, in ‘91, we recognized the changing paradigm that would affect our photo processing by the onset of digital photography.”

Calagaz then added a color copier with connectivity to both Mac and PC computers. “As our business developed, we recognized that desktop publishing was going to have a tremendous impact on conventional printing,” explains Joe Calagaz, VP of Digital.

Seeing area printers were not taking to digital as quickly as they should have in the early ‘90s, the Calagaz family took advantage of the opportunity. “As business developed, we added more and more equipment and services to meet our customers’ demands. In 2001 we recognized an opportunity in the local market to expand our digital offerings to the architectural and engineering market by offering blackline drawings,” he explains. “Our goal is to be viewed as the digital imaging experts of our market,” adds Joe.

During the heyday of “One Hour Processing,” Calagaz had nine locations, “but the changing competitive atmosphere, plus the advancement of digital has caused us to downsize to the current two,” explains company president, Leo J. Calagaz.

In 1998 the Calagaz family had the building housing their main location built to their own specs, and it is here, where all divisions of the business are located, in a total of 16,000 square feet of space. Calagaz sells a full line of digital cameras and accessories; as well as offering a full range of photo services, including E-6, B&W copy services, wide-format printing up to 44”, photo restorations, and DVD video transfers. There is also a satellite location, located in a strip mall, which also offers a full range of photo services.

The Calagaz’s see each of the company’s offerings as extensions of the others. “We believe there is a symbiotic relationship between all divisions as we attempt to serve all of our customers’ imaging needs,” says Joe. “An example is our ability to print and bind photo books for our retail trade because of our printing capabilities. Our wide-format printing capability allows us to meet both our retail and commercial customers’ needs,” he adds.

A Mix of Revenue Generating Services

Calagaz, like many other photo retailers and labs offers a range of photo greeting cards, all created in-house. Leo explains that Calagaz has always offered traditional photo greeting cards, which were printed on the minilabs, but started offering a wider selection, including custom cards about six years ago. These are printed on the Xerox 6060.

Calagaz has been offering custom framing services for about 10 years. “This was a natural adjunct to our enlargement services,” says Pauline. “I cannot emphasize enough that our efforts are to be a one-stop shop for all imaging needs. Each service offered leads to other services.“ Pauline explains, “We made the decision to hire a full time framer and our business has tripled in the last 12 months. We cut mats with a computerized Wizard mat cutting system. The capability of the computerized cutter allows us to do some creative merchandising.” According to Pauline, along with the custom framing department, Calagaz boasts the largest selection of table top frames on the Gulf Coast.

On the Calagaz Photo & Digital Imaging website, visitors will see a button with the words: “Why You Should Preserve Your Memories.” Leo explains why it’s there. “We are in ‘Hurricane Alley’ here on the Gulf Coast. After every major storm, everyone sees images in the media of people looking for their pictures in the rubble of their destroyed homes. It emphasizes the importance of pictures as the memories of our lives.” But it’s not just a button on a webpage, to get consumers to print. “We discuss this in all of our classes and emphasize that it is important for our customers to print their images, not just store them on their hard drive. If a computer crashes, so do their pictures,” he says. One of Pauline’s mantras, that is repeated during classes is that “its only a picture if its printed!” There are nine digital print workstations where customers can print their images, in addition to uploading images for printing and pick-up at the retail stores. The online ordering feature is a necessity in the digital age. “Our customers have come to expect it; more and more customers are embracing this convenience daily,” Pauline adds.

And a great feature on the website is a schedule of when images that are uploaded will be ready for pick-up, depending upon when customers sent in their orders. Calagaz does a limited amount of photo restorations in-house, with the majority of the work being outsourced. However, it is a service that is promoted strongly on the website. “After Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina hit the coast, we had customers in the store every day holding what was left of their photos covered in mud.

They were thrilled with whatever help we could offer them in restoring their memories,” says Leo. “Sometimes it is easy to forget how important our part is in the process of preserving a lifetime of memories. Many tears of happiness were shed by both our salespeople and our customers when restored pictures were picked up,” he notes.

Opportunities to Educate Customers

There are two levels of digital classes taught by the Calagaz’s: one strictly in-house to customers who have bought a camera from them, and a second, as part of the continuing education program at the local university. Pauline explains that the last class is held in the store, where the Digital Print Station capability is demonstrated, and a free 12x18 print is made for each of the students. “We help a local college photo class instructor by providing hands on instructions to his students on their particular camera; we also bring them to our store for one class and do a free 12x18 of one of their images,” she says. “The goal is to show that all photofinishing is not equal. The classes are taught by one or all of the four principles. We hope to show that they are getting personal attention from the owners.” Calagaz also offers several seminars throughout the year, on such topics as: lighting and DSLR seminars, and a photo workshop featuring industry experts.

The Calagaz family prides itself on the quality of the special events they offer their photo customers, whether it’s “Girls Night Out,” the recent “Olympus Expo,” a lighting seminar, or a visit from one of the photographers from Southern Living Magazine offering advice for the local photo enthusiast.

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