Chuck Wolf opened his first camera and film developing shops in metro Atlanta in 1975. At one point, his company operated 700 stores. But times and technology changed, and by 2002, he said, he was completely out of the camera business.
Now he’s back. This year, he opened a new shop on Roswell Road in Buckhead called Chuck Wolf’s Photo Design Bar. Instead of selling cameras and film, his new shop specializes in working with people to print the digital images they take with their smartphones or tablet computers.
His new shop is filled with rows of computers and printers and technicians to help customers transform their digital pictures into anything from prints to hang above the living room couch to coffee mugs. One thing he’s discovered, he said, is that in the digital world, his customers don’t really need a brick-and-mortar store. Instead, they send their images over the Internet.
Reporter Newspapers asked Wolf a few questions about his new business and about dealing with technological changes in the business world. Here are his answers.
How did you develop the idea for your new business?
I knew there was a tremendous change in the photographic business. People were using their digital cameras and keeping their photographs on their computers. It’s not a picture until it’s printed.
We’re really promoting taking an image with your smartphone or your digital camera and putting it on your wall or on your desk.
People used to take pictures and put them in albums. Now they put them in photo books. A photo book is better, but 83 percent of the people that go online trying to do a photo book quit. What we do is we have a brick-and-mortar store and professional photographers to help you get the quality you’ve always wanted.
How do you see your new business fitting into the current market for photography?
It’s definitely a niche. It will catch on. We’re doing everything virtually and through social media.
How important is it for a consumer-based business to stay ahead of current business trends?
I just hired a lot of younger people who know what’s really going in the world, including my son, who’s an IT specialist and in the social media world. My manager was with Apple and I’ve hired professional photographers [to advise customers].
What do you think comes next in the photography business?
What comes next is smartphones are getting better and better and now bigger. You can take photos with your iPad. I think that with the ease of taking photos, people take many more photos than they did when I was printing 35-mm film because they didn’t always have their camera with them before.
It’s really good. There are billions and billions of images taken now each month and all over the world.