The proprietors of Young's Studio of Photography off West Loockerman Street in Dover have had a personalized business model that has worked for the past 60 years in the city's downtown business district.
A professional touch tailored to each customer that walks in has been the key to keeping customers happy at this family business, established by Ross and Lois Young shortly after they were married in 1953.
The youngest of their three children, R. Eric Young, handles all the photography nowadays while Ross Young prefers to help out at the studio in the background. But, Lois Young still enjoys manning the books and greeting customers at the front of the shop.
Eric Young said he has simply continued the same kind of service he learned by watching his dad in the studio while growing up. As a 9-year-old, Eric would watch as his father would create the perfect family portrait by moving family members and creating the perfect lighting to get the shot he wanted.
"I cannot conceive of one particular light that's going to suit every client," Eric Young said Tuesday. "It's a very enjoyable 70 or 80 minutes that they're here. It's customizing the angles, the lighting, the mood — all of that is important. I don't imagine walking into a studio and having the lights set up for you the same way I had them set up for the last client."
Ross Young said there was no secret to his family's longevity on West Loockerman Street. It was simply a desire to please customers that had kept him on his and his wife's toes. That had continued with their son, Eric, he said.
Ross and Lois Young were proud of the way Eric had become a professional photographer. Ross Young said he taught his son a few things, but his son had a natural instinct for photography.
Lois Young, for her part, added that she still loved coming to the shop five days a week to do the bookkeeping and chat with customers about photos, flowers and cats (including studio cat, Felix) to customers, before turning them over to Eric for photo shoots.
Along with the usual amount of competition, Young's Studio also has to contend with the modern phenomenon of everyone having a digital camera and getting away from formally documenting several events. People still rely on professional photographers for weddings, but not so much for their 10-year-old child's birthday, Eric Young said.
"Anybody and everybody owns a camera these days," he said. "This generation is inundated with photos and videos."
Page 2 of 2 - But he tries to overcome that by impressing customers with the tailored approach, including giving customers the ability to take their time and change into different outfits in order to get the perfect shot.
Eric Young also loves to take his studio out into the field, including weddings, preschools, ballets and the annual reorganization of Kent County Levy Court held last week.
In addition, Young's Studio had made a lot of customers happy when it came to restoring old, faded and even ripped up photos, Ross Young said. And everything was done in house and not sent away, at the risk of being lost in the mail.
The photo restoration service had drawn customers from as far away as Lewes and Salisbury, Md., Lois Young said.
Eric Young said that specialty as well as the broader portrait service would allow his family's studio to survive well into the future.