Raffaellea Johnson has been the manager of 60 Minute Photo on Capitol Hill for twenty-seven years. The store has been around for thirty.
Located on 1525 14th Ave., 60 Minute Photo first started off as a private investigation business. The original owner, Cherry Poth, had been a former police officer. Poth left the force to pursue private investigation. According to Johnson, Poth decided to purchase equipment to process his own film because his business was growing so much.
Three years later, Johnson came into the picture and decided to serve the public. Another three decades later, 60 Minute Photo has become a staple for the hubbub of art culture that Capitol Hill is known for.
“I love Capitol Hill,” Johnson said. “I can’t possibly imagine ever leaving here. We fit in so well. It’s a diverse and artsy place.”
So how have they managed to stay in business? Small businesses are closing up shop left and right, but according to 60 Minute employee, Connie Owen, who has worked there for 9 years, “Raffie, as we like to call her, has been very smart this entire time. She keeps us on a very tight budget.”
Everything is meticulously calculated out, especially when they decide if they should purchase new equipment, says Owen.
Owen also attributes most of their business coming from their loyal customers as well as the experimental toy cameras phenomenon—also known as lomography. Most of the demand come from toy cameras such as Holgas or Dianas, Owen says.
“Hooray for Holgas and Dianas!” Johnson exclaims.
In the digital age, 60 Minute Photo has struggled with the abrupt shift—especially with their decision to stick with traditional film processing. In fact, their struggle is what has kept them going. Instead of adapting to digital, they have found a loyal customer base with a high demand for print photography.
60 Minute is also one of the only shops left that offer slide film services, which also helps.
Another big source of revenue for them are student photographers that come in and request help on art projects.
“I really enjoy working with students,” says Owen. “Young photographers these days produce the most kickass pictures.”
Owen also has a background as a wedding photographer before she came to work for 60 Minute Photo.
Another employee of the store, Carlos Melgoza, has been a photographer for twenty years.
He is also nicknamed “The Baby” because of his short employment there compared to everyone else. Melgoza has been there for four years.
Melgoza hails from the Art Institute in San Francisco and his work has also recently been featured in the Seattle Erotic Art Festival.
Owen and Melgoza were customers of 60 Minute before they were hired on as employees.
“The business has changed a lot over the years, especially since digital became so popular,” says Melgoza. “It’s been interesting being a part of it all.”
With a small set of hands running the business, they offer services in processing color, black and white, slide film, film processing, scanning and printing. They also offer digital services.
“Capitol Hill is our home,” says Johnson. “There is no other place like it.”
Check out their website for more services at: http://www.capitolhillphotoseattle.com/.