Camera House Coffs Harbour are celebrating over 30 years in business, as well as their very first birthday in their new premises on Harbour Drive. FOCUS had a chat with Lance and Marie Miller, to find out more …
Take us back to the beginning…
Way back in October 1988, we brought our young family up from Victoria and purchased the Camera House business.
When did your business open, and who was involved?
The Camera House business was one of the original stores in the beginning of the Park Beach Plaza complex. Within weeks of taking over our new business, we were taking our first “Santa” photos. We continued that tradition for over 22 years, seeing the same families grow year after year, until we were seeing the next generation with their children. It was a very important part of our business, ensuring those families had enduring memories. We also grew our school photography business and are still photographing many of the schools we started with.
During that time, Lance was involved on the Board of the Camera House group for 17 years, and as Chairman for three years. During that period, the national group grew to have a record turnover.
After 29 years at the Plaza, we found we had outgrown the available space, and in June 2018 we moved to our new premises at 228A Harbour Drive.
From our new premises, we have been able to provide a training room for Paul’s photography classes, room for frames, racks of bags, tripods, sporting optics and all the neat little gadgets that make photography fun.
Today in the store you will find Lance, Chad, and Marie Miller, Paul Tidey and Mel Carroll – our printer – with a combined 125 years’ experience in the photographic retail industry.
What have been some of the changes in your business?
The digital age revolutionised photography. We have seen film cameras become obsolete, along with the processing of film. Film cameras gave way to digital cameras. The first digital cameras were only 0.3 megapixels. Today, they are 18/20/24/42 megapixels, and growing. The cameras in phones are now at least 8 megapixels, which is why the smaller compact digital cameras have got so much better.
How have you adapted as time/technology changes?
We were always the early adapters for the new technology. Our wet labs became dry labs, so no messy, dangerous chemistry. We introduced our customers to digital cameras, and we were as amazed as them at how quickly technology advanced the features. Once upon a time, a camera was almost a once in a lifetime purchase. New fast developing technology meant customers were updating every one – two years. Today, phones have partly taken over from the smaller compact cameras, but this has also meant a new generation has become interested in photography.
Printing from digital devices like phones, iPads and computers has become the norm. We have the capacity to print enlargements and canvas prints from phone, and new software has just been installed, enabling wifi connection direct from the phone, making downloading even easier.
Customers are continually updating, and there has been a swing back to traditional service with the complex modern technology. Our customers know they can always come back and ask for further information about any of their purchases.
What have been some of your challenges and rewards?
The greatest challenge would be competing on a worldwide market, rather than just with local stores, but as a national group Camera House is able to export competitively to the rest of the world.
The photographic business has always been a personal business. Our reward has been to share in the enthusiasm of our customers’ hobbies and their personal lives. We have been there for the birth, deaths and marriages, and we have loved every moment.
What is the secret to your success?
Passion, enthusiasm and adaptability and wanting to give the customer the right camera for their needs. It is our job to understand their desires and equip them for their dreams. And then, enjoy their adventure with them. That’s why we are still in business. We are still passionate and excited about our industry.
And you have a family … How do you juggle it all?
Our business has always been family oriented, with all our siz children working in the business for their pocket money. Chad worked with Lance as a photography assistant from the age of 12. He has now had over 25 years in the business. Currently, we have young Rebecca Tidey, Paul’s daughter, helping in the shop, every second Saturday.
Tell us about your community involvement.
Having six children has meant we were always involved with most of the sports in Coffs Harbour, from T-ball, soccer, basketball, Rugby League, Rugby Union and AFL, often helping with their team photos. And you will find us glued to the television monitors when the Australia 7’s play internationally, watching our son, Locky Miller, former Marlin, play. Chad is also heavily involved with the organisation of the Dave Irvine Snapper competition.
What do you enjoy most about living on the Coffs Coast?
Coming originally from Victoria, we never take our wonderful weather for granted and consider how fortunate we are that we made the decision to move here 30 years ago.
How can we get in touch?
Come in and see us at 228A Harbour Drive, Coffs Harbour, or give us a call on 6652 5766.
Thanks Lance and Marie.