"It's like a shoe store. You don't have to go too far to get the merchandise as opposed to a wide store with all the stuff in the back," Poresky explains. "The store was also designed thinking of the flow of traffic, so it makes the customer feel it's as much their store as ours. Another key factor was to make it look busy. You get the feeling that there's constant activity here and there's a real sense of community. One person once told me 'I can't walk into your store without meeting someone I know.' It's like the neighborhood grocery and it's all designed with the use of systems."
All Systems Go
Perhaps the most unique system in place at Dan's is a series of electronic light boxes that Poresky had custom made to alert staff members that customers are waiting for counter help. The small black boxes, each sporting a series of green, yellow and red lights, are positioned at ten overhead locations throughout the store. When there's a short line of customers waiting to make a purchase, a pressurized mat underneath their feet will send a signal to the light boxes to turn on the yellow light, telling staff that extra counter help is needed. During busy times, such as in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the longer line will trigger a red light in the boxes, meaning the full staff is needed at the counter. If that isn't enough, the boxes also send out three tonesa chirp for a short line, a double chirp for a longer line, and a full song when the line is at its peak.
The use of systems carries over to the innovative strides Dan's has made in areas of digital imaging and processing. Along with its two Noritsu QSS-2102 minilabs, Dan's added a Noritsu 2711 digital lab in the fall of 2000 and a Noritsu 2901 digital lab more recently. Initially, greeting cards and prints from digital files were the main uses of the 2711, but soon digital prints from slides replaced internegs while direct prints from prints replaced shooting copy negs. Although the digital lab was a huge investment financially, it has paid off by providing better quality and saving labor. The 2901 is used primarily for B&W and 120 D&P as well as for enlargements from all sources. For wide format printing, Dan's recently added the Epson 10000 inkjet printer, which allows for unique canvas and fine art prints.
Expanding Their Reach
While this is all well and good, it means nothing unless Dan's customers have some understanding of what's available to them when they, say, bring in a family photo that needs copying, or a memory card with digital images for printing.
When it comes to digital, Dan's staffers will often lead customers to one of the store's three digital print kiosks, which are connected to the Noritsus in the back. The kiosks, called "Touch Prints APM's" from Lucidiom, were selected not because they were made by a big-name brand, but because they were easy to use, you can customize the user interface, and they could be connected to the Noritsu labs, explained Mike Woodland, director of Operations at Dan's Camera City.
Currently about 90 percent of Dan's digital print sales are done via the kiosks with the other 10 percent sold through Dan's new online processing service, Woodland added.
Along with offering high-quality processing, Dan's has set itself apart by making it easier for customers to process their film through the store's innovative "drop box" program. The idea emerged three years ago when major construction on nearby Route 22 prevented many of Dan's customers from getting to the store. Instead of opening additional locations and risk losing the magic of Dan's, an idea emerged to install "drop boxes" at independent businesses throughout the area where customers could leave their film for later pickup by Dan's couriers. After boxes were installed in a bookstore and a printer, the concept took off, and now approximately 15 businesses in a surrounding 30-mile radius are designated Dan's "Drop Sites."
With the business humming along like a well-oiledsystem, what's left for Dan Poresky to do after 35 years in the business? Well, now that he's helped solve some of the problems of the photo retail world, he's ready to take on some of the problems of the real worldquite literally.
The realization that the earth was in serious trouble hit Poresky on October 12, 1999, when the UN declared that the world population had officially reached 6 billion people. This milestone coupled with the unsettling environmental articles he had been reading and the fact that he had become a grandparent, convinced Poresky that he had to do something to help the earth. In response, he formed the Alliance for a Globally Sustainable Healthy Environment or AGSHEN (pronounced 'action'), a grass roots organization designed to bring "unity, public awareness and support services to environmental advocacy." But just as his photo specialty store was created for all levels of photographers, not just professionals, AGSHEN is open to everybody, not just environmentalists and scientists.
"Instead of opposing politicians, instead of being confrontational and spending energy that way, the idea is to spend energy creating a public awareness of the problems of a world that has limits," he says in describing AGSHEN's focus.
While Poresky will continue to be involved in Dan's Camera City, he plans to spend more time away from the store working on AGSHEN.
Man on the Move
Spend a day or two talking with Dan Poresky and you'll discover that he's a classic "idea man," always dreaming up concepts and plans for doing things better. But spend a day or two walking around the store with Dan as he helps customers, assists sales staff or just keeps watch over the line, and you'll see he's a man who also takes immense pleasure in seeing an idea put in place.
"It's been very satisfying," he says, reflecting on his store's 25th anniversary. "We were able to stay true to the concept of making this a place where the employees feel it's their store and enjoy coming here to work, and a place where the customers feel it's their store and want to see it succeed."
As we end our tour and bid farewell to Dan, it's not long before he finds something else to occupy his attention. "Hello sir," we hear him say over our shoulder to a customer we pass on our way out. "How are you doing today? What brings you by?" ptn