Picture perfect: Fraser Valley Photo closes after successful run
Some say a picture is worth a thousand words, but to some it’s worth much more. I sat down with Fran and Dennis Finnigan to reflect on their business, Fraser Valley Photo, which ran successfully for about fourteen years. Two weeks ago they decided to close the doors and seek retirement, but that does not mean they plan to slow down.
Their business provided many different services: everything from passport photos to large banners, and one of the most popular, old photos of ski areas. Fraser Valley Photo was a modern store with an old-school feel. They didn’t advertise much (Google it and see how much information you can find). It was mostly by word of mouth, Dennis pointed out, but people just knew where to go.
“Our goal was to provide services that people couldn’t get anywhere else,” Dennis said, “The things we would do you couldn’t even get down in Denver.”
It wasn’t just passport photos and senior pictures that kept Fraser Valley Photo in business: it was other unique projects. The Finnigans were open to almost anything customers wanted done with their photos. “We would always give it a try,” said Fran, “We just tried to do what out customers wanted.”
She stressed the importance of giving back to the community, which has given them so much. They always did funeral photos for free. “It was just another thing the family didn’t have to worry about paying for,” said Dennis.
As the transition from film to digital came about the Finnigans knew they had to provide a unique service. Fran began developing film for guests staying at hotels in the county. She would pick the film up and deliver their photos, usually the next day, but this wasn’t popular enough to operate a business on. Then the idea of a one-hour photo store was conceived. Fran and Dennis noticed that people come and go in this town quickly, so the one-hour service was crucial to get business, and it worked.
Locals and visitors knew the Finnigans. Dennis is known to be a bit of a prankster: “If there wasn’t a good rumor to be heard in my shop, I’d start one,” he said, as Fran rolled her eyes, laughed. “He sure would.” He once tried to convince some folks around town that the county passed a motion to put parking meters along US Highway 40, and it would be heavily enforced. He had a few convinced for a couple days.
What worries Fran and Dennis is that there is now a “void” in photo service for Grand County with their shop closing. The nearest place to do photos is probably near Denver, Dennis said.
When I asked them what was next they were unsure. “We don’t want to quit,” Dennis said. “To sit down and veg is not what we’re about.” They have seven grandchildren, two in Grand County, so there is plenty to occupy their time.
After our interview Fran and Dennis walked with me to their shop to take a photo, ironically. We walked slowly, them hand in hand, as they reflected on how the county has changed and how it will continue to change. This does not scare them. They have seen the photo industry change drastically in their time running the business and they were able to adapt successfully; that is what they will continue to do. Fraser Valley Photo’s windows had been covered and most of the equipment had been moved out. They gazed into the shop for a minute with a look of pride. Their business stayed small and local in a mountain town and succeeded for over a decade.
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