We closed last year !!!
Gary's retiring Saturday after 30 years running The Photo Express.
Last day was Saturday, December 31, 2011.
As a last big hurrah for the customers -- while supplies last --
35mm film processing will be a buck donation for the God's Child Project.
100 4x6 prints from digital files will be $10.
CD of portrait studio sitting images $50
Buy anything this week, get something else for free.
Anything that "doesn't fit in the condo" will be given away for $1 after 1pm Saturday.
Long Story (face it, this story took Gary 30 years to write).
In the summer of 1981 I was on assignment in Texas for a national magazine and (this being the glory days of film) wanted to process a few rolls to insure all my cameras and lenses were working well. The local camera store mentioned that one of the country's first 1-hour labs had opened the week before in Amarillo Texas. Instead of waiting days to see the results, my film was ready that very morning.
"Wow, North Dakotans would love this," I thought. Many people drive hours to get to the "big city" and this would save a second trip.
So I quit my job, moved to Bismarck, took out a farm loan (the statute of limitations has expired on that trick) and opened The Photo Express on November 18, 1981, in a little space on the back corridor on the back side of Kirkwood Mall. Hard to find, but the parking was great.
And it was cool being "Cleverly Hidden in Kirkwood Mall". Yes, I came up with that line.
Which was a much better marketing idea than my "Blow up the Kids" campaign. That idea died a quick and quiet death.
Originally signed a Mall lease for five years. By then I figured the 1-hour fad would have faded, I'd be rich and I'd be off traveling the world with my cameras.
Life didn't work out as expected. All sorts of fun people, strange characters and interesting photos came through the door. It was fun and still is fun.
And I liked having a photo lab and all the cool photo lab "toys".
Some may recall I invented and manufactured the world's first one-hour Christmas Card printer; added North Dakota's first one-hour enlarger; doubled the size of the Photo Express and added a studio for same day portraits. Soon we installed ND's first 1-hour disc processor, first instant photographic color copier (by Polaroid, remember them) and self-service printing with a Kodak Create-A-Print enlarger and Agfa Inova Touch kiosk so customers could make their own prints.
Then along came the digital revolution. We had Bismarck's first digital photo enlarger (printing from floppies and zip drives if you can imagine that), first on-line photo gallery site and first on-line photo printing site. We shipped Christmas cards sold over the Internet to all seven continents (the cards from the South Pole were literally the coolest). Our studio and customer photo processing went digital as well. It's been great fun.
Yet time is tricky. Without noticing it, somehow that five-year Kirkwood Mall lease was extended again and again. Before I knew it, the kids had grown up and my beard turned gray. Then it was too late to retire by 50. (I was born in 1956, one can't argue with the math.)
And my little baby Grayson was suddenly three and showing Dad how to run the remote. Grayson likes cameras and took his first studio portraits Saturday (Mommy, smile like this!). He still loves sitting on daddy's lap (for now) but is growing up too quick. I don't want to miss those precious toddler moments by working late at the lab and covering weekend shifts.
So the lab is closing December 31 and I'm going into semi-retirement.
What am I going to do next?
I haven't a clue and don't want to know. Life's best adventures are surprises, sidetrips taken when we planned on going somewhere else. The world is filled with wonderful and interesting people (like yourself) and I'm taking the time to photograph more of them. So I'm going to kick back for a while and tackle Rhonda's Honey-do list.
What does semi-retired mean?
After her husband retired (the first time) Thelma Lydle told me "I married Chris for better or worse, but not for lunch." She's a wise woman and Chris is a lucky man now that he's opened another camera store in their retirement community.
My family is already taking bets on how long Rhonda can stand having me underfoot before she starts reaching for the rat poison seasoning. So while there's no financial need to work, something fun, interesting and perhaps life-saving will come along when the time is right.
Plus, there are still photos to take. And I don't mind if people pay me to take them. I'm looking forward to some weddings, seniors and reunions scheduled for 2012.
So what's happening this week?
We're having just one heck of a great time enjoying all our wonderful Photo Express customers.
One pet peeve of mine is putting off processing film. Film doesn't get better lying in a drawer. Film is like an egg, leave it unprocessed a while and the results start to stink. The longer you wait, the worse it gets until the images fade away forever.
So (until the chemicals run out) we're processing film for a buck a roll and giving the buck to the God's Child Project (Founder Pat Atkinson was one of our first employees back when he was a youngster). The record Monday was 84 undeveloped films found around a customer's house.
Too many people leave their images on a memory card or hard drive. When the card or drive crashes, those memories are gone forever. When technology changes, those memories are gone forever. (Have you tried to view a Beta family video or read a 5-1/4" floppy disk these days?)
So until we run out of paper, Photo Express customers are encouraged to change those pixels into prints. We'll process 100 prints for $10. (You can bring in more at the same rate, just get those images on paper while we still have some paper.)
Portraits are important. I've had a great time taking many portraits in our Photo Express Studio.
This week a CD of all the images that still exist from your old portrait sittings is just $50. Includes a copyright release so you can print them anywhere that still makes prints. Enjoy.
(Portraits from before early 2002 are long gone and those we didn't print are probably gone as well. Our staff can check for you when you come in.)
Moma says: If it won't fit in the condo, get rid of it.
When you buy something at The Photo Express this week -- you get something else for free. You can choose any merchandise of an equal or lessor value.
For the gamblers missing the casinos we have some $5 mystery bags left each holding $10-$150 of frames, albums, cameras or other stuff. Come to think of it, that's far better odds than the casino.
And we're selling Gary's tools and toys too. If they are not gone by 1pm Saturday, everything that doesn't fit in the condo is going for a buck. Be early because we're starting our last staff New Years Eve party at 4pm and (hard to believe) Scott, Amber, Tammy and Kim are party animals.
So we're having a great time with our last hurrahs and enjoying our wonderful and delightful customers for one last time.
Many best holiday wishes to you and yours and I hope your new year is going to be as exciting as mine.
Cleverly Hidden in Kirkwood Mall this week
The Photo Express
If you need something, I still like you
(701) 527-3878 (cell phone)
is a great time for Senior Portraits.
still have openings for this summer to get some outdoor portraits
before your summer tan disappears. Call for availability.
here for more details.
out the offerings in our Photo Express Portrait Studio. We offer some
fabulous digital effects as well as traditional photography.
here for more information on Portraits
here for Passport and ID Photo Information
Click here for info on the spring PTO fundraiser
The Photo Express
614 Kirkwood Mall
Bismarck, ND 58504
Store Contacts: Gary Grinaker
Store Email: Click Here
Saturdays: still closed
Sun by appointment only