Photo studio closing leaves customers in limbo

Dozens want picture orders, some from holiday, fulfilled

January 10, 2020 Cranberry Local News

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The closed studio located in Streets of Cranberry Shops, and Portrait Innovations as a whole, shut down unexpectedly earlier this week, leaving dozens of customers' orders unfulfilled.

CRANBERRY TWP — Kristi Connor wanted to have photos taken to commemorate her daughter's first Christmas.

She paid Portrait Innovations in Streets of Cranberry Shops $217 to take the pictures and make Christmas cards.

But she never got them.

The studio, and Portrait Innovations as a whole, shut down unexpectedly earlier this week, leaving dozens of customers' orders unfulfilled.

“That's all I want is our pictures,” Connor said. “It was our daughter's first Christmas.”

Emily Wittmer, marketing director for M&J Wilkow, the property owner, said the landlord discovered 44 customers' orders and 40 phone numbers. She said they have been contacting customers, and that five have been able to pick up their unfulfilled orders since Monday.

Connor was contacted by M&J Wilkow that her photos were available to pick up, but she said they weren't there.

Other customers also were out money. Amber Kirkpatrick, for example, had a $100 gift certificate she received from her uncle. She planned on using that to take photos, but couldn't do it before the doors were shuttered.

“They had told us they had been booked solid through the end of January,” Kirkpatrick said.

Multiple phone calls to a phone number associated with the company's website registration and emails to an address listed on the registration were not returned.

Kayla Adams, who had photos taken at the studio the weekend before Christmas, said her bank reimbursed her for the cost of the photos, but she hasn't been in touch with anybody to see if the prints are available for pickup.

“They're completely gone. You can't call anybody, you can't email anybody,” she said. “No one's there.”

Daniel Lonchena, a Pittsburgh area photographer, said the closure of chain photography stores is surprisingly common.

“It's happened quite a bit, actually, where companies have just shut down and left like Portrait Innovations,” Lonchena said. “We're just trying to inform people to try to stay local.”

Even before its closure, however, many customers were dissatisfied by the service at Portrait Innovations. Kathy Fraley said the studio enticed customers with coupons offering a “fabulous deal,” but that they pushed expensive packages and were “very rude” when she stuck to the coupon.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in South Carolina in 2017, and had paid out nearly $23 million to its creditors before its reorganization was complete. The case was closed in October 2019.

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Alex J. Weidenhof

Alex J. Weidenhof