Changes in Physical Media Generate a “Paragon” of Success

I find it interesting that when someone asks me what I do for a living and I tell them that I’m in the media manufacturing business, they seem to be sad for me, and some, I think, even feel sorry for me. The prevailing attitude about physical media is that the technology is all but dead, gone the way of the 8-track tape, killed by downloads and streaming media. Heck, if I was on the outside looking in, I would feel sorry for me, too. I’m not suggesting that the media business has not changed. On the contrary, it’s actually changed quite dramatically in a very short period of time, but that is good news—the changes have actually benefited Paragon. Let me explain.

When I started in the disc business in 1994 our initial focus was on creating CD masters for replication. The process for creating a “Gold” master was complicated and expensive and not a lot of companies had the skill set or resources to do it in-house, so we were able to carve out a nice little niche. When the price of recordable media and drives dropped, we started duplicating small quantity orders for our clients. Then came the big time—we received our first order for 50 CD-Rs from a software company called Wall Data. That’s when we knew we had a new business direction.
That was essentially the beginning of what would become our core business model for the next 17 years—short run, quick turn media duplication runs. As time progressed we added new capabilities to match the growing demand for short runs. In 1998 we added DVD duplication, and in 2000 we added digital printing for short run custom printed disc packaging. (Since the installation of our first digital press we’ve added or upgraded an additional five digital presses. I like to tell people we are the best, award-winning digital printer you’ve never heard of.) In 2006 we added one of the first digital disc presses installed in the world for decorating short run discs, and just this last year we installed a new 6 color off-set disc press to provide the best quality disc printing in the Northwest.
I know you are asking what all this has to do with the changes in the disc industry and how these changes are “benefiting” Paragon, so I’ll jump right into that. All of our investments and experience over the last 17 years has made us an industry leader in short run media production, and the dramatic changes we are experiencing in the media industry are feeding right into our core competency. Gone are the 100,000-piece orders, replaced with 500-disc runs. The size of orders is shrinking but the number of orders is actually on the rise. Since these industry changes are trending toward short runs with quicker turns, Paragon is actually seeing an uptick in business.
In 2010 we produced over 3 million duplicated discs, 100 discs at a time. Actually, that is not true—I mention that for dramatic sake—our average order is 800 units. But that brings up the point that I want to make next: The future and what it holds for Paragon.
As we have seen over the last few years, the size of the orders have fallen but the volume of orders has actually increased—our clients are ordering less discs at a time but more frequently, and we expect this trend to continue.  To meet this continuing trend, Paragon has aggressively been investing in innovative new technologies to fully automate our production workflow. This enables our clients to order one-off packaged CDs and DVDs for Web fulfillment, Web-enabled pay-per-use video download and streaming services, and customized, on-demand DVD authoring. Our one-off packaged media services are truly a zero inventory model in which the manufacturing process is triggered once an order has been received. When the order is placed for the product, the disc is produced and decorated and the packaging printed in a fully automated workflow. In bringing to bear the latest in digital workflow technology we are able to effectively produce one packaged disc at a time, saving our clients the expense of inventory.
Our most innovative solution is our customized, on-demand DVD authoring tool. Our clients’ customers can now pick and choose episodic video segments online via a Web portal. Once the end user has selected the video segments they are interested in, their personalized DVD content is authored on the fly. The tool incorporates the end user’s personalized and targeted information into the menu assets, the disc decoration and the disc packaging. It’s a fantastic evolution of the DVD experience.
The key to the success and the longevity of physical media comes down to return on investment, and in the case of content distribution, physical media is king. The studios protect their DVD and BD release dates because it generates their largest return, and independent producers rely on physical media to drive a majority of their revenue stream. The physical media business is here to stay for a long time, albeit in smaller run sizes.

Chris Lamb is president of Paragon Media in Seattle. Visit for more information.

The Post Revolution

I have been working with film and video production in one way or another since 1974. Two partners (Gerry Cook and Chris Venne) and I spent many years making documentaries and television commercials in Spokane in the mid- to late-‘70s. We would work in small format (1/2” open reel) video and 35mm film (for the television commercials).

Around 1981 we started making Corporate Information programs, as the market for documentary projects significantly diminished with the election of Ronald Reagan! It was at that same time that video tools started to become more and more useful, and complicated. Where we used to edit video by putting two video tape recorders on a table and rolling each one back five seconds from the “in point” of an edit—and then very adeptly starting both of them at the same time, while running a stop watch, and being sure to push the “edit” button at exactly the right spot—we started to see computers that would do all of that for us. (In the early days, the computers worked about as well as our error-prone manual approach to editing.)
Around this time, a fellow named Rich Woltjer showed up in Spokane wanting to know what we were up to, and how production could be going on “over here.” He was developing a way to catalogue and categorize all media production going on in the State of Washington. We gave him our information and looked forward to being involved in a very early version of networking. And having contact with the “West Side.”
By the early ‘80s we had become “Pinnacle Productions” and started to draw significant clients from the west side of the state, including Boeing, banks, insurance companies, even Rainier Beer for a “down market” remake of the “Running of the Rainiers.”
A talented and growing group of artists and production people joined Pinnacle in our corporate production and special effects group. Our reach was national (we created opens for Monday Night Football and NBC Nightly News) and the content was wonderfully creative. We mostly had great fun, and got a lot of satisfaction out of creating high quality work.
This level of production required increasingly sophisticated equipment, and our own production couldn’t keep it busy enough, so it was finally decided to move this very talented group of people and skills to Seattle (the company was owned by Cowles Publishing Company in Spokane), and open a brand new production and post production facility in the Belltown area. The idea was to service other clients as well as our own efforts. Seattle and Los Angeles people joined the team from Spokane, and a very capable post production facility was created. The effects and corporate production group were also part of the mix.
By the time we opened in Seattle, Rich Woltjer’s project was now called Media Inc. and was a monthly newspaper that featured a big story about the opening of Pinnacle Productions’ new facility in the early fall of 1990. (See Cover to Cover, page 80). The facility was carefully designed to provide the very best equipment and people in a perfect environment for film transfer, complex editing, and special effects creation. Clients came from around the region and the U.S.
Pinnacle provided all kinds of technical and creative services over the next 10 years, providing production and post production services for many Seattle projects. We hosted the infamous Frugal Gourmet production on our stages for two years, and were involved in editing and developing special effects for Bill Nye the Science Guy. Nike came to town almost weekly from Portland to transfer and color correct film. Most of the local bands going national in the mid-‘90s music videos were worked on in various parts of the facility. And about 50 very talented and dedicated people worked there.
I left Pinnacle in 1997, 23 years after I helped start it. I moved on to work for a few years in the dot com industry, developing ways to stream video on demand and participating in Seattle’s version of the “Dutch Tulip Bubble.” I then moved to Alpha Cine, Seattle’s highly regarded motion picture lab, where I am approaching my 10th year working with independent filmmakers from all over the U.S., and another wonderfully talented group of people.
And during this time, Media Inc., now under the leadership of Jim Baker, has played a significant role in reporting on and developing the industry in the State of Washington. Without Jim and Media Inc.’s support and leadership, the effort to develop film incentives and promote production in the State of Washington would certainly have been more difficult.

Don Jensen is president of Alpha Cine in Seattle. Visit for more information.

30 Years of Northwest Production

Thirty years of Media Inc.! Wow, it’s been a while. As I recall, the magazine began life as POV. I began working in film in Seattle in 1974, so I had 6-plus years of experience by 1981! There are only a handful of us working today who were working in Washington back then. Off the top of my head, Conrad Denke, Don Jensen, Bob Marts, Bobby Beaumont (or back then, Gribble). Not many others.

In 1981, we were renting Arriflex 2C and Cinema Products CP16 cameras. I was still operating out of my house on Capitol Hill. Our only competition in the region was Glazer’s… back when they were on 3rd Avenue, near The Bon Marche. In 1981, most serious production companies owned some kind of 16mm (not Super 16) camera, but few owned 35mm and many didn’t own a sync sound 16mm package. Two exceptions I recall were Pal Productions and Filmsmiths, who each had a 35mm camera. Kaye-Smith was the hot production company in town. Down in Portland, Homer Groening (Matt’s dad) owned an Arri 2B, which he sometimes lent to up-and-coming filmmakers.

In addition to renting my cameras and working as an AC, I worked on video shoots but they were usually shot with Ikegami 79 or Sony 300 cameras and recorded onto 1” Sony reel-to-reel tape. Or we worked with Loy and Bonnie Norrix’s truck. Betacam hadn’t come to market (any market, as we were the first, with Phil Mudgett and his new company Modular Video) yet. 
There weren’t any serious lighting and grip companies back then. Bob Beaumont and Bill Baum each had a bread truck lighting and grip package. Mike Van Ackeren had a small truck. But no one had a 5-ton package.
Those were exciting times in the Pacific Northwest. Crews moved between Seattle, Portland and Spokane as the jobs dictated. Most of our work was either commercials or industrials. Sometimes there were national commercials or industrials, particularly with Boeing airplanes or our great locations. There were a few local features happening, as well as a few coming in from L.A. I’d worked as 2nd AC on Joyride back in 1976 (Eugene Mazzola was the PM), and then as 1st AC on Bruce Wilson’s Doubles in 1977. In 1981 (that is 30 years ago!), I was still working as a 1st and hadn’t moved up to DP… that change occurred in 1982.
There were three film labs in the region… Alpha Cine and Forde in Seattle and Technifilm in Portland. And telecine was a brand new art, with the first system in the region a Bosch at Alpha Cine, and then one at Telemation. Much of our telecine work went to Salt Lake City or Vancouver.
Thirty years ago, we still had “The Motion Picture Seminar of the Northwest,” which had just changed (or was about to change) its name to “The Film and Video Seminar of the Northwest.” Alpha Cine drove the seminar and what a gem it was for the region. In this case, by “region” I mean Northern California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The Seminar brought together hundreds of filmmakers, crew, and vendors for a two-plus-day event in Seattle. It had begun in 1967 and ran until 1985. It was educational and fun, as well as a chance to meet people like James Wong Howe, Robert Wise, Vilmos Zigmund, and many other
And about 30 years ago, both the Oregon Media Production Association and the Washington Film and Video Association were formed. The OMPA is still vibrant today, but the WFVA folded after about 10 to 12 years. Associations are tough to keep running!
Thirty years of changes. Changes in technology, style, crew sizes, union/non-union, types of work originating in the market or coming into the market. What hasn’t changed? But we’re still here, still renting, still selling and now manufacturing gear!

Marty Oppenheimer is managing director of Oppenheimer Cine Rental and Oppenheimer Camera Products.

Washington Film

By Paul Nevius, Communications Coordinator, Washington Filmworks

The red light of the Space Needle blinking against a starry backdrop, the snow-dusted peaks of the Cascades, the sun-baked highways winding through rolling desert hills, the endless shades of green in the rainforests. Few other places in the United States can match the diversity of Washington State. Boasting some of the nation’s most dramatic scenery, ranging from waves pounding on rocky beaches to the world famous Seattle skyline, Washington has always been a prime location for film scouts.

However, with the business of filmmaking changing to reflect today’s economic climate, it will be Washington’s ability to offer competitive incentives and support to productions that will continue to foster motion pictures in our state.
In 1930, legendary movie star Clark Gable came to Mt. Baker, Washington, to film The Call of the Wild. For over 80 years Washington has played host to stars from all eras of filmmaking, from Elvis Presley to John Wayne, Tom Hanks to Matthew Broderick, Johnny Depp to Sylvester Stallone. To recognize some of the remarkable and memorable works that have been made in Washington, we reflect back on the last three decades of Washington film.

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) – Widely considered to be one of the best films of 1982, An Officer and a Gentleman was one of the pictures that catapulted Richard Gere into the realm of stardom and earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor to Louis Gossett, Jr., the first African American to win an Oscar in that category.

WarGames (1983) – A true Cold War time capsule starring Matthew Broderick, WarGames was one of the first films to address the now-cliché movie trope of the “super-computer run amok,” as well as helping introduce the word “hacker” to the common lexicon and inspiring generations of high schoolers to try and change their report cards with their PC.

On the set of Singles

Singles (1992) – Set against the landscape of early ‘90s grunge rock Seattle, Singles was the first of many films targeted at the twentysomethings known as “Generation X.” While commercially and critically successful, the film was partially eclipsed by a soundtrack featuring Seattle-area musicians such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. After the film’s release, an attempt was made to turn the movie into a TV series and when director Cameron Crowe balked at the notion, the company proceeded with the idea, changed elements and characters, with the result eventually becoming the NBC sitcom Friends.


The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992) – A film with tremendous influence on pop culture, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle enjoyed a place at number one on the box office charts for four consecutive weeks, had a massive impact on American pop-culture and brought actress Rebecca De Mornay to the Hollywood A-list with her chilling portrayal.

Benny & Joon (1993) – A love story about two eccentric individuals, Benny & Joon was another critically acclaimed performance by a rising star named Johnny Depp, who brilliantly channeled silent film comedians Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993) – Known by many as Seattle’s signature film, featuring locations from Alki Beach to iconic views of the Space Needle, Sleepless in Seattle featured performances by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan that set the standard for romantic comedies to this day. As a testament to this film’s lasting impact on the city, Sleepless in Seattle merchandise is still sold almost two decades after the film’s release.

Assassins (1995) – Written by the Wachowski Brothers, directed by Richard Donner and starring Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas, Assassins was a high-budget action thriller that showcased the two leads jockeying to kill each other across Seattle.
Snow Falling on Cedars (1999) – Receiving industry-wide acclaim for its cinematography, Snow Falling on Cedars highlights the Japanese-American population of Seattle’s struggle against prejudice in the time before, during, and following WWII.

10 Things I Hate About You (1999) – A late ‘90s teen adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew was America’s first introduction to the late Heath Ledger and a breakout role for the young actor.

The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising (2008) – A true home-grown gem, this low-budget indie featuring a cast and crew drawn entirely from Washington State has developed a loyal cult following and boasts fans all over the globe, showing the ability of Washington filmmakers to rise above limitations like budget and reach a broad audience.

World’s Greatest Dad (2009) – Directed by comedian Bobcat Goldthwaite and starring Robin Williams, this dark comedy shows Seattle’s versatility as an “Anywhere, USA” location, and was a smash-hit at Sundance.

On the set of World's Greatest Dad

The Details (2009) – With a star-studded cast, The Details is a story about raccoons destroying a yard, but the story of how the production overcame difficulties in financing is equally incredible. Debuting at Sundance, The Details was quickly bought for distribution by the Weinstein Brothers, becoming one of the most popular films at the festival.

Despite the boom of feature films made in the ‘90s, Washington has seen a decline in features in the past decade. A rapidly changing economic climate and the rise of state film incentives all over the country has created a highly competitive film industry where the bottom line trumps locations. These changes have seen Seattle- and Washington-set films such as Battle in Seattle, Twilight, and Love Actually going to Vancouver, BC, or Oregon.
With the bottom line now more important than ever, Washington’s filmmaking future seems uncertain and will rely on the willingness of state politicians to renew the motion picture incentives that drive the state film industry. More than bringing Hollywood to Washington, these incentives speak to cultivating the caliber of creative talent that has existed here for over 80 years and helping write a new chapter in the history of Washington Film.

For more information, visit

Production in Oregon: A Retrospective

Oregon State boasts a long, rich, and storied history of film.
For more than a century, productions have sought out the state’s vastly diverse landscape as a filming destination, from Oregon’s first-ever film, The Fisherman’s Bride (filmed in Astoria in 1908), to Animal House (which commandeered the University of Oregon campus in 1978), to the myriad television shows and indie films shooting in Portland in 2011.

To commemorate a selection of these wonderful productions, and to coincide with Media Inc.’s 30th anniversary, here is a look back at the last three decades of Oregon film.

Goonies (1984) – Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Richard Donner, Goonies is one of the most celebrated films in Oregon’s history. The cult classic has had a lasting impact on Astoria, as thousands of  fans continually flock to the coastal town to see filming locations and experience the adventures of “Mikey,” “Mouth,” “Chunk,” and the rest of the gang. The film marked its 25th anniversary in 2010 with a weekend-long celebration in Astoria, coinciding with the grand opening of the Oregon Film Museum.

Stand By Me (1985) – A classic coming-of-age tale, Stand By Me stars Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell and Corey Feldman (who also appears in Goonies) as 12-year-old best friends searching for adventure in a small town. Set in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Oregon, the film was actually shot in Eugene, Cottage Grove, and Brownsville, among other locations.

Stand By Me filmed in Eugene, Cottage Grove, and Brownsville, Oregon.








Drugstore Cowboy (1988) – Hailed as Portland-based director Gus Van Sant’s breakthrough film, Drugstore Cowboy poignantly tracks a “family” of prescription drug-addled criminals, led by Matt Dillon’s character, as they rob drugstores to fuel their addictions. Roger Ebert’s review lauded the production as “one of the best films in the long tradition of American outlaw road movies—a tradition that includes Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy and Badlands.”

Gus Van Sant gives direction to actor Matt Dillon on Drugstore Cowboy set.








My Own Private Idaho (1990) – Another Van Sant classic and another “road” flick, My Own Private Idaho is a powerful, provocative film about two very different street hustlers—“Mike” (River Phoenix), a desperate and lonely male prostitute, and “Scott” (Keanu Reeves), who hustles only to rebel against his wealthy father—and their journey together. Many consider this to be Phoenix’s best performance ever, in a career—and life—cut short at the age of 23.

Kindergarten Cop (1990) – This much-loved action-comedy stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a brawny detective who goes undercover as a kindergarten teacher to locate the ex-wife and son of a murderous drug dealer. Astoria serves as the backdrop—a small-town “safe haven” for a family in hiding from its vicious patriarch—and John Jacob Astor Elementary School portrays the fictitious Astoria Elementary School. Other local locations include the Bayview Motel, Commercial Street in downtown Astoria, and Ecola State Park.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop

Free Willy (1992) – This feel-good family-oriented film centers on the friendship between a young orphan and an orca whale (played by the infamous Keiko). Much of the production was shot in and around Portland, while the climax of the film—where Willy jumps over the boy and out of captivity—was filmed at Hammond Mooring Basin, near Astoria. Parts of 1994’s Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home were also filmed in Astoria.

Mr. Holland’s Opus (1994) – Richard Dreyfuss stars as the title character, “Glenn Holland,” a composer-turned-high school music teacher who inspires hundreds of students throughout his 30-year career at the fictitious John F. Kennedy High School (portrayed by Ulysses S. Grant High School in Portland). The uplifting drama was so inspirational that it spawned a non-profit, “Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation,” that donates musical instruments to under-funded school music programs.

Men of Honor (1999) – Based on a true story, Men of Honor is about Carl Brashear, who overcomes discrimination to become the first African-American master diver in the United States Navy. The gripping film—starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Brashear and Robert De Niro as his caustic trainer, Master Chief Billy Sunday—was shot in Rainier, Portland, and North Plains. The production even built a naval base set from scratch on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.

Thumbsucker    (2003) –    A character-driven indie comedy from director Mike Mills, Thumbsucker explores a whole new level of teen-angst as it tells the tale of “Justin” (played by Lou Taylor Pucci), a high schooler who compulsively sucks his thumb. The film also stars Tilda Swinton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Keanu Reeves, Vince Vaughn, and Benjamin Bratt. Set in the fictional town of Beaverwood, Oregon, the production actually shot all over the state, including in Beaverton, Vernonia, Sherwood, the Portland International Airport, and several other locations.

Wendy & Lucy (2007) – This award-winning film features Michelle Williams’ heartrending performance as “Wendy,” a penniless drifter struggling to start anew with her beloved dog (played by director Kelly Reichardt’s own pet). Shot in just under three weeks in and around Portland, Wendy & Lucy premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and appeared on many critics’ lists of the best films of that year.

Twilight (2008) – The ever-popular vampire series’ first film was shot in dozens of Oregon locations, including Portland, Oxbow Park, and St. Helens, among many others. Like Goonies, Twilight is another tourist draw for fans wanting to see various locations used for the movie—like the historic View Point Inn, where cast and crew filmed the momentous prom night scene.

The stop-motion animated film Coraline was produced in Portland.

Coraline (2008) – The first feature from Portland-based animation powerhouse Laika, Coraline is a stop-motion animated film aimed at children and adults alike. The production hired hundreds of animators, designers and technicians to make the characters’ world—the story is set in Ashland, Oregon—come to life, and staged hundreds of miniature handmade sets in a 140,000-square-foot warehouse in Hillsboro. The film grossed over $120 million in the U.S. and internationally.




Meek’s Cutoff (2009) – Director Kelly Reichardt and actress Michelle Williams team up again for this pioneer-era Western, filmed in the Harney County desert near Burns, Oregon. Set in 1845, Meek’s Cutoff follows three families’ perilous journey as they trek the Oregon Trail and become lost under the direction of the title character, the caravan’s blustering hired guide. Acquired at the Toronoto International Film Festival by Oscilloscope, the film is scheduled to screen in theaters throughout the U.S. this spring.

These are just a few of the hundreds of Oregon-filmed productions that have helped shape the local industry into what it is today—an undeniable powerhouse in the national scope thanks to a host of local talent and crew, vital infrastructure, incomparable locations, and a sterling incentive package. And it seems Oregon is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, 2011 is poised to be the biggest production year ever for the state in terms of dollars, with the return of television series like Leverage and Portlandia, and a number of other films slated to shoot in-state.

For more information, visit

On the Record: Media Inc.’s Q&A Series.

Media Inc.'s Q&A

Media Inc. is starting a brand-new interview series, entitled “On the Record,” in which we discuss the latest and greatest with a different Northwest company each issue. Coinciding with our 30th anniversary, Glazer’s Camera—one of Media Inc.’s first-ever advertisers—is a prime choice for kicking off the series.

Glazer’s has been providing camera equipment to Seattle’s bustling photography community since Ed Glazer established the company back in 1935. The company—and the industry at large—has undergone many changes since then, but Glazer’s remains a bastion in the industry and a premier resource for the community. We spoke with Bob Lackman, second generation owner, and Rebecca Kaplan, third generation co-owner (with her brother, Ari Lackman), to discover how Glazer’s has stayed on top all these years.

Media Inc.: Rebecca, when did you and Ari become partners/ co-owners?
Rebecca Kaplan: I believe I started working here in sort of a management position in 2002, and Ari was 2006. We had grown up in the business and worked in different departments over summers and played around when we were little. But as managers, and now owners, it’s been within the last decade.

MI: And Bob, when did you formally retire?
Bob Lackman: I haven’t formally retired, but when I had a heart attack back in ’95, I said to Ken Smith, who was a floor manager at the time, “Congratulations, you’re now the manager.” So at that point, I tried to kind of have him shoulder most of the stuff. And Ken stayed with us through the training, if you want to call it that, of Rebecca and Ari, and then he went on.
So I would say Ari and Rebecca both got their chops early and once they did, I really only try to come in when I’m in town for maybe a half-hour and touch base, maybe an hour. I’ll do certain things at home, which is much easier for me, you know, because it’s a busy shop. So I call myself virtually retired. My wife says I’m still not.
RK: You get to do all of the fun “thinking” projects, and Ari and I get to do all the detail, get-it-through-the-day work.
BL: My wife, who is a Glazer—it’s her father that started the business—she and I are very proud of both of our children who are not just carrying a torch, but really doing a great job as business owners. It’s worked out really, really well.

Glazer's first location in downtown Seattle

MI: How important was it for your children to “carry the torch” and take over the family business?
BL: I would say it was not important. I say that because I advised them that if they liked the business and would enjoy it, wonderful. But do not feel like there’s any obligation. You spend most of your life at your work—you want to enjoy what you do.
RK: We had opportunities to explore other careers. I’m 38—I came on when I was about 29—so I had already worked in the high-tech world for awhile, and Ari had worked as a glass blower and did work in various other areas, too. So we were able to get out there and get some experience, and now we have a good balance for each other. We do have different personalities, so we try to play off each other.

MI: And it works well?
RK: Yeah. For the most part (laughs). We try to stick to business when we’re here and we can have a really hard day or a tough vendor meeting and have a challenging work day, and then go to their house for dinner on Friday night and it all goes away and we can focus on being a family. So we try to maintain pretty distinct lines between work and outside of work. It can be challenging. But I feel really fortunate that between Bob and Ari and myself we all have a very similar vision for where we’re at as a company and where we’re going. We sometimes take different steps getting there, however, we really aligned with the direction that we’re going.

MI: Glazer’s is a very community-oriented business. Can you talk a little about that and why it’s so important to you?
BL: When Glazer’s opened, we were downtown, kitty-corner from the Bon (now Macy’s). It was really difficult for a customer to get there and park because we always were a destination store—as opposed to a mall store, where you have the foot traffic. And that’s the beauty of the business is that we build relationships—we have customers that we’ve enjoyed for over 50 years—and so I immediately sought out and became active in the various professional societies for photographers and filmmakers. We have staff that’s been on boards; we had one staff member that was the president of ASMP, which is very unusual for a retailer to be president. So it’s really been a real melting with the community.
RK: I would say that every single week we make some type of donation to a non-profit, and we’re actually in the process of formalizing our donation non-profit program because we do have such a high demand. There’s hardly any margin in the hard goods that we have here, so it’s very challenging to accommodate even price-match. So our rental business, that’s one of the areas where we try to give back. So if we have a client who’s donating their time to a project, we’ll look at that and try to make a decision for how we can support that photographer. The volume that comes in is pretty astounding right now, but we try to accommodate most requests.
In addition, we’ve always supported all of the photo programs like the Youth in Focus and Bridges to Understanding and Blue Earth Alliance—those are three local photo-based non-profits. I just joined the board of the Blue Earth Alliance and I hold an advisory position at Phil Borges’ Bridges to Understanding, so we try to give our time.
We don’t always have as many financial resources to give, but we are there to support the pro community and the arts community. It takes a substantial amount of time to process everything, but we enjoy it.

Glazer's team

MI: How has your business changed throughout the years?
RK: When Bob was running the business, it was mostly pro photographers and commercial shooters and there weren’t very many photo enthusiasts who came in, at least not at the proportion that we have now. So we’ve shifted a lot. We’re still able to service and help those commercial photographers and those pro customers who are still out there, and we have a nice set of corporate clients—a lot of local businesses support us. However, with digital where it is today, we’ve had to retrain, just recalibrate how we talk to customers because so much of our business is that photo enthusiast or general consumer who is interested in coming in and buying their first camera here. Whereas 15 years ago that would’ve been a smaller incidence.

MI: How are you adapting to the changing clientele?
RK: We’ve worked with our staff to help them easily work with completely different customer sects within even an hour’s period of work. A commercial photographer could come in who has very technical questions about a certain job that they’re trying to do and they need help with that, as far as getting some products for it, or just talking out an issue. And then the next minute someone like myself, who’s a mother of two young boys, might want to come in and get my first point-and-shooter, my first SLR, and talk about how to take family photos. So there’s the whole gamut and we feel like we’ve adjusted to be able to talk to our different customers as far as our product mix.
And the product mix has changed. We feel at Glazer’s one of the things that differentiates us is our knowledge and our expertise and our service, but also the fact that we have such a vast product inventory and that we stock it and it’s here and it’s available. We know that we can’t be everything to every customer, but we try to be as best situated to help a wide variety of customers and we try to build our inventory around that to offer something for everyone.

MI: What are some of your proudest accomplishments with Glazer’s?
BL: I think mine are when somebody comes in from France or Italy or Japan and, considering the small market that we are internationally, we’ve been told over and over that they’ve rarely, if ever, gone to a store where in one stop they can get anything they need. And that really shows the depth and the breadth of the inventory. We get referrals and phone calls from all over the world and people want to ask about our products and they say, “Great, here’s my FedEx number,” and we’ll ship it to them.
RK: I think just when we get compliments from our customers. There’s times when someone’s in a real pinch and we’ve been able to help them through a job or salvage images that they thought they lost on a family vacation. We’ve been able to ease their work, whether it’s professional or pleasure.
It’s not a “moment,” but I just have such a high regard for our staff. Everybody contributes to what happens here in their own way and I just personally have such a high regard for the staff who’s out there selling all day long. It’s very hard work—it’s hard physical work and it’s hard emotionally to just be engaging all day long with customers—and they do it all day, every day, and they do it really well. When we get feedback about our staff, those are things that help keep me going.
There’s lots of moments… Knowing that we are able to have our own little community with our staff and our customers—we provide a livelihood for people here. We take a lot of pride. It’s a challenging business, it’s a tough economy, the commercial photo community has been really impacted, and to see people get great jobs and projects from our clients, it’s nice to see that.

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