Knowing Your Neighbors: First Photo

DULUTH, Minn. — Mike Mennes has had a lifetime love affair with taking photos.

“I just love the art form, I love photography,” he said. “I started shooting when I was 12 or 13.  My father was into it and he got me a camera and that’s how I started.”

Mennes is the owner of First Photo in Duluth, a store that in many ways has stayed the same since it opened.

“We’re a full-line camera store with onsite photo processing,” he explains.

At Mike’s shop you can buy a camera, or camera parts, and you can get your photos developed and printed.

And even though that’s been the case since day one, the world of photography couldn’t be more different.

“Things over the years have changed tremendously,” Mennes said.  “Obviously the quality and just the fact that cell phones have really altered the camera market and that has drastically changed.”

Because of cell phones, digital photography, social media, technology has caused massive changes in the entire business of snapping photos.

“I think I’ve been very willing to adapt and invest what I had to invest in changing technologies,” Mennes said.

That willingness to adapt has allowed Mike to now celebrate 25 years of being in business, an anniversary First Photo celebrated just this past weekend.

“I think it’s just a case of paying attention to the market and just being able to adapt to the changes that seem to make sense to me at the time,” Mennes said.

Mennes says his business has always been as focused on processing photos as it has been on selling cameras.

“As far as brick and mortal retail stores selling cameras – that has declined quite a lot, I’ll be honest,” he said.

So even if the only photos you have are on your phone or tablet, Mike and his staff can help you print those images using the latest technology.

“That’s part of being my philosophy that one feeds the other,” he said.  “You’re excited about one, you can’t help but be excited about the other.”

And it’s the excitement from his customers, who just want to share their memories with everyone they know, that keeps Mike happy to come to work for many more years to come.

First Photo is located at 102 E Central Entrance in Duluth.

The store is open Mondays through Saturdays and closed on Sundays.