Wells Camera & Sound is Moose Jaw’s oldest photo printing business and is now operated by the third generation of the Wells family. The business has remained relevant since the end of World War II by embracing innovation.
“My grandfather started the business originally, after the war,” explained Chad Wells, the current operator of Wells Camera. “Kitch Wells was an aviation photographer and he photographed from airplanes during World War II. Post-war, he took his skills and opened a photography business.
This initial company was called Excello Photo. The storefront was on Main Street in downtown Moose Jaw. In 1973, when the Town ‘n’ Country Mall opened, he, his wife Margo and their son Bob decided it was time to expand.
“And that’s where we brought the combination of the photo and TV audio industry,” Chad said. “We operated the mall until 2001. In September 2001, we purchased this location.”
Mac Anderson has been an employee of the company since 1978. He recalls that the Town ‘n’ Country location had the first color photo lab in Saskatchewan.
“There was a big cup, a huge cup, and all the prints were in this dryer going around, all stuck on it,” Anderson recalled. “And we picked them up, they were all numbered, and the girls were sorting them into envelopes. And then Bob, Chad’s dad, and I would deliver them to Kitch’s convenience store network. I delivered the South Hill location.
That same desire to be on the cutting edge of technology in the field is what has sustained them, Chad said, along with their commitment to their customers.
“What really kept us going was trying to stay one step ahead. Not necessarily the first, but one of the first, and seeing trends and trying to follow that.
Kodak is a photo company that has lost its leading position in the market due to its reluctance to innovate. Kodak dominated the photographic film industry for many decades, but had to file for bankruptcy in 2012 after failing to embrace the digital revolution.
“It’s interesting, Kodak was one of our main partners,” Chad recalls. “Kodak was the very first company to use the Internet professionally. In 1986, we had our first Internet connection at the Technet Center, which was operated out of New York. So every morning they passed test strips in the photo lab and read them with a densitometer. We sent those numbers to New York, and they told us how to adjust our chemistry to keep the colors consistent.
At the time, Moose Jaw was one of the first Canadian cities to join this network, along with Vancouver and Toronto.
Followed by an hour of on-site photo development, then digital cameras in the mid-1990s. Now cellphone cameras are everywhere, but Chad said cellphones had the paradoxical effect of increasing interest in dedicated cameras and photography rather than pushing customers away.
“It had an interesting effect, because it brought out an interest in photography that hadn’t existed before. There are a lot of people now who really enjoy photography with their phones. »
Since one of the three aspects of the store is photo printing, that means a lot more business. The store can print virtually any size photo – on photo paper, wood, acrylic or metal.
“It really opened the door to what you can do with your photos,” Chad added.
Steph Stephens, another longtime employee, is the photo lab expert. She specializes in restoring old photos and cleaning photos according to customer requests. His work became increasingly busy over time.
“I can’t keep up,” laughed Stephens. “I mean, I can keep up, but it’s a challenge.”
One of Stephens’ favorite parts of his job is watching multiple generations of families grow. Privacy is obviously a concern. Stephens and Wells agree that a serious part of the business never discusses photos with anyone.
“Privacy is one of the reasons we’re still here,” Chad said.
Another big technology change this year in particular is that all new Samsung TVs come with PC-grade processors and built-in Xbox software.
“All you have to do is buy a controller, subscribe to Microsoft, and you can play hundreds of games on your TV, console-free,” Chad said, shaking his head.
“We just keep getting better. It’s one of our biggest expenses, unfortunately, but we want to maintain the best quality and user experience.
Check out Wells Camera & Sound Fotosource at wellscamera.ca for all your photo printing needs. And if you’re looking for a new high-end TV or camera, look no further – they’ve got the best brands.