LIVINGSTON, NJ - This week, The Alternative Press (TAP) of Livingston sat down with David Guida, owner of Livingston Camera and Millburn Camera to learn more about him and his store as part of a new member benefit being provided by The Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with TAP Livingston.
Q: Can you tell me some general information about Livingston Camera?
A: Established in 1954, Livingston Camera has been located in the same building for 60 years, though it did move from 39 to 37 South Livingston Avenue in 1987 when a second story was added onto the building. Open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., the store can be reached by phone (973) 992-8383, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What types of items do you sell?
A: We carry anything that has to do with photography and photos here and in our Millburn store called Millburn Camera, too. We print pictures from film and digital. We are a hold out—we still process black and white and color film. Of course we have also changed with the times and offer all of the products and services needed in today’s digital word. We do laser prints, large format prints, gift items, photobook and cards, and are set up to do short-run print jobs of 100 or so brochures, flyers and other items—the kind traditional printers typically don’t like to do.
We also create photo montages from people’s pictures—often from trips when they have taken too many to print, but want to be able to watch a medley on TV or the computer. In addition, we also do video duplications and transfer video onto dvds. Livingston Camera also downloads and prints photos from cell phones.
In addition, we print mostly from here but will send things out when they are too big. For instance, we print for mounting up to two feet by three feet. And, we print anything from locket-sized photos up to those that are 44 inches by 13 feet tall.
Of course, we also sell cameras but not like we did in our 1999 heyday and we sell lots of accessories. People have also said we have a great frame selection. We have much in stock but can also order cameras and accessories for people.
Q: What is something people may not know that you do?
A: We restore old photos and do batch-scanning, in which we take photos that are saved in a box or something and digitize them.
Q: What is the hardest thing you do?
A: We resurrect water and fire damaged pictures—if we can.
Q: Are you a photographer?
A: No, but I do have a camera and do take pictures, mostly of my six beautiful grandchildren.
Q: If you aren’t a photographer, how did you become interested in the camera field?
A: When I graduated high school, my dad gave me my first “real” camera. I liked taking photos. I then commuted from home to attend Newark College of Engineering and worked part-time at a camera store in Dover, near my home, which was owned by a gentleman named Howard Mink. He owned six camera stores including this one and the other one that I also own with my business partner Carl Mink, a Livingston resident, who is Howard’s son.
When I was done with college, I didn’t like what I saw as far as engineering jobs in the real world, so began working for Howard full-time.
Howard was a friend and a mentor. He died in 1994 and I bought the business from his estate and became Carl’s partner. At the time, there were four stores, but we closed two because finding good management was difficult. Now, I primarily work at the Livingston store, with my wife and Carl works at the Millburn one, with his wife, but we do consider ourselves to be one business.
Q: What do you like most about your career?
A: I like interfacing with people. I like to help them solve their problems. I like that there are sometimes challenges to face but I am noticing that after all of these years as time goes by, their problems are often less unusual because I already have problem-solved so many of them often in the past.
I also like that I am constantly learning. I always have to learn how to use the newest cameras because they are always changing and being improved upon as technology improves.
Q: What kind of camera do you recommend for people who are just starting out?
A: I mostly deal with amateur photographers now—not really with professionals anymore. I always recommend a digital one, unless they are anxious to learn about darkroom photography or want a point and shoot one. I ask a lot of questions about their needs and budget—I don’t sell on commission or to make a profit. I try to help people get exactly what they need. I am honest and always recommend the best camera according to value and I give a lot of choices.
Q: Do you speak on cameras/photography to groups?
A: I have spoken to groups in the past and am happy to do so when asked.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Livingston?
A: I really like the people. They are very friendly. I like the camaraderie—the community. I don’t live in Livingston but I consider it my town. I probably know more people here than I do in my hometown of Morris Plains.
Q: In what ways are you involved in the town?
A: I am a member of the BID, am a member of the Chamber, the store has donated a lot of work for the Bicentennial and other town projects, and I try to participate and give out gift certificates to the schools for their fundraisers when they ask.
Q: If you had all of the money in the world, what would you do?
A: I would be a perpetual student and continue to learn new things.
Q: If your store had a theme song, what would it be?
A: “The Lollipop Song.”
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I like to fly fish. It is very quiet and peaceful.
Q: What is your favorite TV show?
A: Right now, it is “House of Cards.”
Q: What do you want to do when you retire?
A: Aside from being a perpetual student, I want to write a book and paint—and I have never done either before, nor do I expect to be retiring anytime soon.
Q: What makes Livingston Camera different from other stores like it?
A: This is a true family business of the Guidas and the Minks. We are very personable and try to do what we can to answer people’s questions. People always say they are so glad we have helped them.
I also give mini one-to-one camera lessons. I tell people who buy cameras from us that they get 4,000 visits a year to ask one to two questions at a time. It is too hard to tell anyone everything about their camera at once. They won’t remember it all. It is too much to take in. However, people who don’t buy from us are certainly welcome to come in with questions too.