"A film customer typically comes in with a 24-exposure roll," Ben says. "But it's not unusual for a digital camera owner to come in with a memory card that has 50, 100 or 150 pictures on it. A $50 digital camera photofinishing order isn't uncommon. Some people talk about the decline of photography, but my perspective is, we're on the verge of a boom."
All it will take, he says, is educating digital camera owners to come back to retail stores for their photofinishing. He argues that in a year or so, even cell phone cameras will have sufficient quality to produce a decent 4 x 6 print: "Essentially everyone with a cell phone will have a digital camera in their hands. Imagine the number of exposures they'll shoot!"
One of the primary rules of retail: Never say "No." Whenever a customer asks for a product or service that isn't offered, it's written down on a pad kept behind the counter. Ben and Melissa study the pad every day to decide how they can says "yes" next time around.
When customers walk in the front door, they're often greeted by first name. "Remembering the customer's name is one thing," Ben says. "But remembering their kids' or grandkids' names-now that's a challenge. But it means the world to customers, so it's worth the effort."
When Melissa Belhorn gave birth to the couple's second child earlier this year, e-mail club members received a link to the store's website with photos of the new baby and proud parents. Ben says he was overwhelmed with responses-and several gifts-from well-wishing customers. "We intend to be a part of this community for a long time," he says. "It's great to know we're welcome here."
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Imager SnapshotBen and Melissa Belhorn are co-owners of Gahanna Photo Plus in northeast suburban Columbus, Ohio.
Gahanna Photo Plus
Type of lab:
Community-based, neighborhood lab.
Special Niches They Fill:
Photo gifts, delivery service for photofinishing. None of the labs in their area offer drive-thru service; they have curbside service.
The lab has four permanent staff and occasional part-timers. Ben's yardstick for success is how many new faces he sees everyday and how many of those new faces turn into repeat customers. "If they don't come back, I know I've got a problem. I tell customers, if you see something you don't like, ask somebody. The worst thing you run into is a customer who's not happy but won't tell you," says Ben.
- Digital Minilab: Noritsu 2901
- Kiosk: Kodak Picture Maker print station
- Wide-Format Printer: None (outlab)
- Online Photofinishing Service: Yes, through IPI's Online Photo Processing and online drop box. Also have SilverWire, and an FTP site.
- Packaging products: Kodak order envelopes, Noteworthy print wallets and order envelopes from IPI