WYOMING, Mich. — After 75 years in the same location, Mark’s Photo & Video is one of the few stores in West Michigan where you can still put your hands on a new or used camera and talk to someone knowledgeable about it.
Of course, cameras and have changed over time, from capturing images on film to digital. And so have the customers at Mark’s, says manager Bryan Groothuis.
“Used to be, photography wasn't as simple as it is today," he explains.” You had to be a photo bug. In order to get good pictures, you had to know a lot of technical stuff, you had to buy a lot of accessories and know about lighting and have light meters and all that stuff. And now, it's changed, that you just pull out your phone and you take pictures with it.”
But Groothuis is seeing renewed interest in cameras, including film. “There's been a little bit of a resurgence in film, mostly by people under 30. They like it, they like how it looks. And we develop film right here a couple times a week.”
Processing film is just one of the services at Mark’s that makes the store unique, and offering such services possibly is the key to its survival all these years and during the pandemic. “A large part of our business is what I call archiving,” Groothuis says. “If somebody’s got old movies -- maybe movie film, maybe videotapes, or they've got old slides or negatives -- and what we do is we scan that or transfer that over to a digital medium, either like a flash drive or a DVD.”
Groothuis notes that while people can put their old-format memories into a box and ship it somewhere for transfer to digital, many people balk at the thought of some distance entity entrusted with their precious memories. So, they choose a local transfer opportunity.
His price is also significantly lower.
The pandemic shutdown and restrictions have had their effect on Mark’s Photo & Video. Groothuis says he lost some employees who moved on to other jobs instead of sitting out the six-weeks long closure last spring. And business is still about 80% of normal.
"Our regular customer base was very supportive,” says Groothuis, who regularly faces surprise at what kind of business he runs. “It seems for younger people, I run into people and they go, ‘What's a camera shop?’ ... You have a store that just deals with cameras?”