Once the wizard of camera retail, Chuck Wolf sold cameras when they were heavy, clunky things with big, expensive lenses and an insatiable appetite for expensive celluloid film. He has since adapted to the digital age with a new focus.
The 74-year-old entrepreneur once owned some 700 brick and mortar stores nationally. His chain, Wolf Camera, was synonymous with the latest in film and developing tech. But then something happened that changed Wolf and the shutterbug business forever.
Seemingly overnight, film and its developing processes retreated to the domain of art houses and rogue holdouts hiding in darkrooms and dank basements. This small niche could not sustain a rapidly shrinking market in film cameras. The silver nitrate was on the wall, and eventually Wolf Camera was shuttered. A stint with Ritz Camera, owned by Wolf’s uncle, offered some borrowed time, but fell to the same fate in 2012.
When most seniors would be planning their next tee time, Wolf planned his comeback. “I’m having fun,” he said, “I saw no point in sitting still, this is my passion and I love it. I love photography and how it can makes and preserves memories for people. It’s what I do, it’s what I’ll always do.”
In 2014, Wolf launched Photo Design Bar and plans to once again rebuild his empire, eventually expanding nationally with satellite or franchise operations. “The film camera gave way to digital, but it didn’t end there,” said Wolf. “Now, smartphones offer the resolution SLR cameras did only a few years ago with much more convenience. It’s amazing how far that technology has come. We don’t even sell cameras.” Instead, the Digital Photo Bar offers myriad options to preserve, restore or enhance those images, transforming them into art or advertising.
“We can apply our customer’s digital images to canvas, wood, metal, virtually any surface. This creates personalized ‘art decor’ for home or office, said Wolf, “Images can be printed from wallet size to 10-foot x 30-foot billboard. We can print on T-shirts, lamps, coffee mugs—pretty much anything the customer wants.”
Wolf has created a kind of photographic concierge service. He employs professional photographers and photoshop experts to create special effects, enhance images, dropout backgrounds, retouch, restore or repair old print photos, and create photo books, calendars, and DVDs for still shots or video. Similar to Apple’s Genius program, store personnel will offer hands-on help to customers wanting to learn how best to use their smartphone cameras, according to Wolf. Education programs on digital photography on a one-on-one basis or classroom setting are also available. Individual tutoring costs $100 per hour; group classes cost $50 for a 90-minute session.
Chuck Wolf’s Photo Design Bar is located at 3763 Roswell Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30342; call 404.709.2981; firstname.lastname@example.org; PhotoDesignBar.com