The mid & late 1990’s was a time when Service Photo came into it’s own. Volume was growing, we had secured a line of credit with a local bank, and we were able to take advantage of every opportunity afforded to us by vendors & customers. We had a large inventory of products that people wanted, and we had loyal customer base of students & educators, professional photographers, along with many commercial clients & photo enthusiasts. We had many fantastic business relationships, and we knew all of our customers well. Competition was tough, but we had carved out a decent niche in our regional photo marketplace.
Soon, people started talking about digital photography and we knew that serious changes in our industry were coming. But, we didn’t know exactly when or what they would be. We wanted to be ready for the digital changes, but something happened at this time which would distract me for awhile, and teach me some valuable lessons – Service Photo was sued by a competitor. I was also sued personally by that same competitor – a camera dealer that is no longer in business. Neither I or anyone else at Service Photo had done anything wrong, and we knew it. It was a frivolous pair of lawsuits – a true act of desperation – brought down upon us by a competitor who would soon be out of business because of their own actions (not ours). But, it was serious business and a distraction nonetheless. The truth prevailed, and the lawsuits were eventually dismissed. We were able to move on with everyday business.
Digital was soon all around us – the Nikon D1 & Canon 1D really brought digital SLR’s into everyday use for professional photographers, and Service Photo was able to make the transition to a digital cameras dealer without too much trouble. Service Photo never had a minilab, and we didn’t depend on photofinishing income to keep us going. This was not the case for many photo dealers, and stores with minilabs found themselves in the midst of a difficult transition. We had a bit easier, and due to our already strong relationships with camera manufacturers like Nikon & Canon, our transition was somewhat smoother.
No matter how much we loved digital cameras, replacing our large sales of Kodak, Fuji, Polaroid, & Ilford products would be a daunting task. Service Photo had once been something like a convenience store for photographers. We had several hundred loyal customers, who we knew well & saw often. We liked doing business that way, and we sold LOTS of film, paper, & chemistry. As conventional photography started its steep decline, Service Photo was selling digital cameras to our regular customers and many new customers, too. The photo industry was exploding, and people were looking for a knowledgeable supplier to help them navigate the new (and expensive) world of digital cameras. In Baltimore, Service Photo was a trusted source. We were grateful to meet new digital customers, and we found that the increased number of photographers in the marketplace made up for the fact that they wouldn’t need film continuously. Over the years, our business would change into one that has tens of thousands of customers, whom we see less frequently than in the days of film.
Service Photo moved to our Falls Road address in 2003, and it proved to help the retail side of our business a great deal. Hampden is a great, centrally located Baltimore neighborhood with lots of shops & restaurants. Service Photo now has many walk-in retail customers, along with many commercial, education, and government clients. We also sell many new & used camera items via the internet, and we keep our UPS driver & mail carrier busy – shipping items all over the USA & the world. We have found a way – doing whatever it takes – to keep our staff busy. The photo industry is very different than it used to be, and so is Service Photo. We are constantly changing, and we hope that we are making our customers happy along the way.