Dan’s Camera City stays relevant
Photography business keeps relevant and changes with new technologies
Tyrone Richardson / The Morning Call
Years ago, Mike Woodland learned that a critical element of running a successful business is to predict consumer needs.
That principle has helped Woodland and Kevin Harayda, owners ofDan’s Camera City, keep the business thriving as camera phones and big box stores have threatened their market share.
“I was told to anticipate people’s needs so you already have an answer for the need before they know they needed it, and that has really worked for us,” Woodland said.
Woodland and Harayda purchased Dan’s Camera City in 2003 from Dan Poresky, who founded the business in 1977.
Originally focused on used camera sales, the business has continually evolved and today specializes in many aspects of photography, imaging and training.
Its 15,000-square-foot store on Fairmont Street in South Whitehall Township services about 400 customers each day and is stocked with a sea of film and digital cameras, framing, equipment rentals, photo studios, classrooms and a burgeoning array of services with social media in mind.
Recently added services include computers that can print Facebook images and aftermarket technology to turn digital and camera phone pictures into prints that can be affixed on anything from coffee mugs to iPad and iPhone cases.
“The challenge for us today is to inspire people to do something more with the beautiful image they already have,” Woodland said.
Dan’s also created a mobile app, added more mobile photo booths, and renovation is under way on the company’s second store.
The Lehigh Valley’s population growth and roadway congestion was enough to inspire Woodland and Harayda to open a store later this year in a small strip mall near Sonic Drive-In on Route 248 in Lower Nazareth Township.
“We have seen our customers dealing with more traffic and less time to get everything done, and we want to make sure Dan’s is easily accessible for more residents of the Valley,” Woodland said.
The second store will mirror the goods and services offered at Dan’s original site and include a portrait studio, owners said. The Lower Nazareth store will employ about 20 workers, adding to the 90 employees at Dan’s South Whitehall store.
Dan’s growth comes during a time when camera shops have had to reinvent themselves to stay relevant as competition mounts from electronics superstores and other chains that sell photographic services and equipment.
That has led to financial woes for numerous camera and photography chains such as Ritz Camera, which filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009 and was sold months later after shedding hundreds of stores, including all of its Lehigh Valley shops.
Dan’s growth is lauded by one retail expert who cited keys to a merchant’s success.
“They are state of the art and they offer a lot of services and that’s what has set this retailer apart from the traditional camera stores and electronics chains,” said Jeff Green, president and CEO of Phoenix-based retail consultant Jeff Green Partners. “Whenever you are an independent operator you can be more agile and than when you are a corporation.”
The agility, Woodland said, has allowed Dan’s Camera City to stay relevant with consumers.
“Years ago it was a very reactive business because people would take pictures and come in with film,” he said. “Now we have to be a very proactive business and have to entice and inspire them to share their images.”