(L to R) Jena, Monica, John, Mark and Christopher.

By: Ryan Guitare

In honor of Small Business Month, the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce is excited to feature Paul’s Photo, a longstanding gem in our community. Led by President Mark Comon, Paul’s Photo has been a cornerstone for photography enthusiasts of all levels, providing invaluable services and products in an ever-evolving industry. This interview delves into the recent milestones, unique offerings, and challenges faced by Paul’s Photo, showcasing their dedication to both the art of photography and the Torrance community.

What’s a big achievement your business has had recently? What lessons did you learn?

We searched for two and a half years for a black-and-white film processing machine and finally were able to buy one in Korea and have it shipped. We had to rework our lab to install it. Now we can offer color and black-and-white film development on-site. For two and a half years, we were actively searching because these machines aren’t made anymore. It’s like finding a motor for your ’65 Mustang. It takes time to find the right part. So we found this machine, refurbished it, and installed it. Jeff and his crew in the lab are doing an awesome job.

What unique products or services does your business offer that make Torrance a better place?

We are the last man standing in the camera store industry. When my dad started, there were over 4,000 camera stores in the United States; now there are about 150. We have a full-service camera store with beginner, hobbyist, and professional equipment. We have a lab that develops film and supports film photographers. We do scans, prints, print enlargements, and videos. These are services that most people ignore today, whether it’s printing pictures from your cell phone or shooting film in your old-school film camera. All of that is what we take care of here at Paul’s Photo.

What are the main challenges and opportunities for your business in Torrance, and how are you handling them?

The biggest challenge in California today is the increased pressure on businesses to foot the bill for everything. The legislature thinks of these programs and looks to small businesses to fund them. Whether that’s extended leave or mandating an extremely high minimum wage, all these things are impediments to a small business’s success. In our industry, I can’t raise prices. In the camera store, the major manufacturers dictate the price I will sell a camera for, allowing a single-digit gross profit. I can’t raise the price of a camera because you will buy it somewhere else. I have to be at the market price, and we have to absorb all these extra costs, fees, and taxes that socially make sense but make it really hard for a small business to survive.

The opportunity is that we have awesome people in Torrance, both those who live here and those who work here, as well as people from neighboring cities. Those are my customers. Those are the people who come here and are a part of the community, the creative community here at Paul’s Photo and the Creative Photo Academy. That’s the greatest opportunity. We have high school and college students who are learning photography, and professionals who are photographing for their businesses. We have moms, dads, grandmas, and grandpas who are photographing for fun. It’s a great opportunity we have to offer them a creative outlet to share their world.

Paul’s Photo continues to be a beacon for photographers, providing not only essential products and services but also fostering a vibrant community of creativity and learning. The Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce is proud to celebrate Paul’s Photo during Small Business Month, acknowledging their resilience, innovation, and unwavering commitment to the art of photography. To learn more about Paul’s Photo visit, https://paulsphoto.com/

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