Peter Street location could close by end of year; ‘I think what we will miss the most is the interactions with customers,’ says Greg Pauk
One of Orillia’s oldest businesses is set to close.
James Pauk Photography opened in 1969. It was started by the late James Pauk, who immigrated to Canada in 1951 from the Netherlands. With an interest in photography, he landed a job as reporter and city editor with the Packet & Times.
“He was a self-taught editor and reporter at the Packet who basically ran the dark room,” explained his son, Greg Pauk. “When his time was done there, he decided to do wedding photography, and then he had the opportunity to buy a business, which became his dream.”
Pauk recalls his father learning at the New York Institute of Professional Photography before opening in downtown Orillia.
“It’s been an interesting journey,” he said. “Not too many businesses in town remain from that time frame.”
He says the photography industry is vastly different today with digital cameras and cellphones.
“A lot of things are online now,” he said. “Interactions with clients are different now, too. Sometimes they come into the store to talk to you and sometimes they will just send an email.”
Around 2003, digital photography changed the way the business went about a lot of its production.
“The so-called black room where film was developed and prints were made was gone,” Pauk said. “Now we use digital files and a desktop computer to edit and print with high-end inks and digital paper.”
The industry has continued to change at a fast rate over the years, leaving Pauk feeling it’s time to make a change and reinvent how his business operates.
“I think what we will miss the most is the interactions with customers day in and day out,” he said.
He plans to continue his work as a photographer on a part-time basis once he closes the storefront at 25 Peter St. S., which could happen by the end of the year.
The complete photography studio and retail business has photographed family portraits, weddings, and special occasions all while doing custom framing and selling equipment.
“I think being so diversified was the real secret to our success,” Pauk said. “Memorable moments have given us a lot of opportunity to photograph some interesting people throughout the years.”
In 1967, his dad photographed the Los Angeles Kings while they were in London for training camp. In 1970, Hockey Hall of Famer Bobby Orr stopped by the shop in his yellow Corvette to select photos James had taken of him for his book.
“He sat down with my mom, Grace, and said, ‘They all look so good. Which one do I choose?’” Greg recalled. “It was a pretty hilarious time.”
During the 1999 NHL season, James photographed the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Scotia Bank Arena for their New Memories and New Dreams poster. He also photographed Gordon Lightfoot, Orillia’s city council numerous times, and the 1973 Allan Cup champion Orillia Terriers.
“Looking over the years, from weddings to portraits and everything else in between, the files are endless,” Pauk said.
James operated the store until about the time he died last year at age 86.
“We had talked about making this change,” Pauk said. “I think what has sped it up has been him not being here. It was his dream.”
He has been with his father’s business since he finished high school in 1978, making it a difficult decision to let go, but he knows his family’s legacy will live on through the photographs they have taken.
Customers interested in purchasing their original files at James Pauk Photography can do so for a “very reasonable price,” Pauk said. He can be reached at 705-326-6066.