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To make sure customers have all the options they want, Jacobi is adding new options all the time. The Palisades Image Center in Georgetown features a Noritsu CT-1 workstation right on the front counter, where customers can input their digital camera media, view images and decide which ones they want printed. "The interesting thing is, when they look at their own images, they'll buy more," he says. "When they choose an image to print, the software asks if they want a 4 x 6, 5 x 7 or 8 x 10, and the customer will say, 'That's a nice shot; I'll order an 8 x 10.'"

The Langley Image Center is offering online photofinishing through its website. Customers click on a link that sends them transparently to the LifePix online photofinishing service. The orders are then sent to Langley over a DSL line and added automatically to the 2711 Digital Lab System's print queue. Customers can come in and pick up their finished prints the same day.

Jacobi considers it a personal mission to spread the word that digital camera users can get high-quality, archival prints from his Image Centers at a cheaper price and better quality then they can do at home. A four-foot-high graphic greets customers to both stores outlining the photofinishing options available from digital media. "Go from pixels to prints," it proclaims.

Flexibility Key to Future

Like most retailers, Jacobi's Image Centers have suffered from the weak economy and fallout of 9/11. People are traveling less, he says, and that translates directly to fewer vacation photos. "For us, the key is trying to figure out how to create more business with existing customers," he says. "You have to give them more reasons to come into your store."

What does he see in the future? The only thing he knows for sure is that he needs to be flexible. "My decisions are based on taking advantage of the trend toward digital," he explains. "But once you have that attitudeto be flexible and embrace whatever comes alongyou open up all kinds of new possibilities. You may have to change your niche or your emphasis. But you can always ride the next trend and grow."