Photo Industry Reporter's 2012 Dealer of the Year: Paul's Photo
With Photo Education and Great Customer Service as the Cornerstones, the Comons Have Built 50 Years of Retail SuccessDecember 2012 By Jerry Grossman
All in the Family
Paul Comon, the 80-year-old founder of Paul’s Photo and its president, didn’t come across as someone who wanted to splash his name across his store’s signage and newspaper ads. His beginnings were a bit more humble—and inspiring.
In 1961, Comon was managing one of A-Photo’s four LA County locations when the owner decided to pack it in, and he offered each of his managers the chance to buy one of the stores. Comon, who had been working there for six years, had first choice—and he jumped at the chance.
“I knew what I was doing; it was a small store, with one location,” Paul Comon recalls. “There was a sign on the wall with the old store name and an image of a camera. I realized I could just take down the old name, put in ‘Paul’s,’ and not have to buy a new sign. So I went with it.”
So started the pragmatic approach to the photo business that Paul’s Photo has demonstrated for more than 50 years. It remained a one-store operation (Comon moved into his current 23845 Hawthorne Boulevard store, his third location, in 1987), and he pretty much stuck to the basics over the years. Hardware was at the core of his business, and customer service was what made it successful. Photofinishing was somewhat of an afterthought; they sent out all of their photofinishing through the years—until recently.
But where the photo store found its defining niche was in the classes that Paul taught. Starting out in a local adult school, he began teaching the basics of photography, and he soon found that students became his most loyal customers.
Enter the Next Generation
Mark Comon, now vice president, first started working in his dad’s shop when he was 14 years old—and he never left. Over the years, he has become the yin to his dad’s yang. In many ways, it’s what’s made their 50-year run all the more successful.