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Frodsham Foto folds

A Rogue Valley photo-finishing mainstay since 1980 succumbs to competition from chain stores

After developing 2 million rolls of film for Rogue Valley clients, Frodsham Foto Finishing will close permanently this month.

I can't compete against the Wal-Marts and the Costcos, said owner Joe Frodsham. It's time to just give up.

His Ashland store closed this week, and Frodsham expects to shut the doors to the Bear Creek Plaza store in Medford in the next two weeks.

His 10 employees already have been let go, but Frodsham's children and friends will pitch in until the last day.

We were the first in everything, said Frodsham, whose stores have been a Jackson County fixture since August 1980.

We were the first to do enlargements. We were the first to do one-hour.

The high point for his business was during the late 80s and early 90s, when one-hour photo finishing became popular.

When the discount stores got in the act, that was when things started to erode, he said.

The stores steeply discount their prices and often attract customers who come to Frodsham only when they need something special done with negatives, such as making Christmas cards, he said.

This Christmas customers came in with Costco and Wal-Mart envelopes looking for reprints, said Frodsham.

Through the years, he has tried to keep up with the competition, offering digital processing and installing other high-tech equipment, but to no avail.

We like to provide every service that you can find in a big city, he said.

Digital work had been increasing, but not enough to make up the difference, he said. Volume just kept dropping, Frodsham said.

He remembers back in the early 1970s, when it cost about &

36;6 to process a 36-exposure roll.

Today, despite inflation, stores still charge about &

36;6-&

36;7, he said.

Frodsham, who originally considered Klamath Falls for his photo store, first set up shop at the corner of Fourth and Riverside streets in Medford in 1980.

Later, to promote new enlarging equipment, he took pictures during a Pear Blossom Run, then went back to his shop and made 8-by-10-inch prints.

I put them up on display and people thought they were photos from the previous year, said Frodsham. They couldn't understand how I could print them so fast.

Alex Szentesi, owner of Total Camera and Video in Medford, said stores like Wal-Mart and Costco are taking the lion's share of the photo finishing.

But, he said, One thing they cannot compete with: quality.

Szentesi, who's been in business 26 years, said he uses the same digital machinery as the bigger outfits but gets better results.

Before he got the digital equipment, Szentesi, who once had two locations in the valley, said his business was going downhill. Since then it has tripled, he said.

While some people have printers at home to make copies of photos, Szentesi said many of them find it's cheaper to come to his shop and that they get more durable, better quality prints.

Frodsham said he prided himself on offering the highest quality to customers, but it just didn't translate into enough volume.

After his Medford store closes, Frodsham said, he isn't sure what he'll do next, but he's got four children in college and another set to go to college next year. Frodsham, 53, and his wife, Jill, have six children in all.

It's going to be a tough situation, but we're going to get our kids through college, he vowed.

He plans to continue living in this area and will continue as a member of the Medford School Board.

He said he will miss the customers and running the business he has cultivated over almost 24 years.

Professionals have called us and said, 'Where are we going to go?' said Frodsham.

Frodsham Foto Finishing will close its doors this month after more than two decades of doing business in the Rogue Valley. Owner Joe Frodsham says competition from large chain stores has been his undoing. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell