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Polaroid photo shop feeds interest in prints

By Associated Press


Associated pressJami Bloch, 12, was one of the first customers at the new Polaroid Fotobar store in Delray Beach, Fla.

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. » The first in a chain of Polaroid-branded photo shops opened here Friday, with its backers hoping to reinvigorate the digital world's interest in printed images by capitalizing on an iconic name.

Polaroid Fotobar aims to tap into unprecedented interest in photography with its inaugural 2,000-square-foot store. The trick will be to coax consumers who snap pictures on cellphones and other devices to give their memories new life on paper.

"Maybe it's on a smartphone, maybe it's on Instagram, maybe it's on Facebook," said Warren Struhl, the founder and CEO of Fotobar. "But digital is not permanent. Physical is permanent."

In the glistening new store, customers can pay a visit to the bar where "fototenders" will assist in wireless uploads of photos. From there a visitor can purchase prints made on-site, or order products sporting their images on canvas, metal, bamboo and other materials.

The cheapest item is a $1 print replicating a traditional Polaroid, though the purchase requires a minimum of six. The priciest product is a 7-by-4-foot, 150-pound slab of acrylic with a customer's image on it, running $2,500. All of the prints made on-site take the form of the original Polaroid, in varying sizes, with its familiar white border. It is thicker, at 1.2 millimeters, and sturdier but is instantly recognizable.

Struhl said he has heard time and again that photography's transition to digital has brought "a pain point" for people, who feel a sense of guilt that their images may reside on a hard drive but not in a frame.

"It makes them sad," he contended. "Most people are afraid they're going to lose that favorite picture on top of the fact that they wish it was up on a shelf."

Whether that is true and whether it drives people into Struhl's stores will determine the fate of the Fotobar. But even some with deep nostalgia for the Polaroid brand wonder how the business will fare in a digital world.

Phillip Block of the International Center of Photography said he grew up with Polaroids and is "thrilled that anyone is interested in picturemaking and the physical print." But he said digital cameras have replicated the immediate gratification and emotional impact people experienced when their Polaroid camera spit out a floppy print.

Polaroid cameras were the ultimate in convenience, he said, and "anything other than that is a step backwards."

But as customers began to file in, there was no sign of discontent. Among the first to take a seat at the Fotobar was Jami Bloch, 12, who was uploading photos from her Facebook and Instagram accounts. She frequently takes photos on her iPhone but never has them printed.

"You can actually like see them," she said of the prints, "it's actually like real."

Besides offering a sleek, sparkling white atmosphere, the store also has a studio that will offer free classes, host parties and allow customers to come in for portraits with local photographers. Struhl says he's negotiating at least 10 leases for other Fotobar sites and expects new locations might open elsewhere in Florida, in New York, Boston and Las Vegas in the next year.

Customers can also find refurbished Polaroid cameras selling for $159.95 and eight-packs of film for $29.95.

Polaroid itself, which pioneered instant photography, ultimately went bankrupt and doesn't produce its iconic cameras or film anymore.

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Makiki_Al wrote:
??? Wasn't a Polaroid print like digital? I don't recall anyone framing a Polaroid. You took the photo, waited for it to develop, viewed it and then "stored" it. The only difference is that the storage was physical not digital.
on March 2,2013 | 04:29AM
soundofreason wrote:
And your box of photos never "crashed"!!! Seriously though - if you ever walk by those kiosks in Walmart, there's quite a bit of consumer activity there.
on March 2,2013 | 05:25AM
onevoice82 wrote:
I think the concept will build because alot of people will want to print that one or two shots sitting in their phone that they will surprise their friend with as a "fun" spontaneous gift. It's cheap and it is convenient and it is so much easier than busting out the dusty wrinkled photo paper somewhere in your office and trying to figure out the orientation on your printer and then somehow screwing up 3 or 4 of them before you actually get the print right and then you end up having to trim the 5X7 from an 8.5X11 piece of sticky photo paper. The shop will be a winner in a high traffic mall where lot's of teenagers hang!
on March 2,2013 | 05:32AM
cojef wrote:
Yes, but you still have take time out to visit a foto-bar, that means driving out your way, find parking, and all the other distractions assocoiated with have to make stop.
on March 2,2013 | 10:14AM
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