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Picture Perfect

Silver Imaging keeps pace with the film-to-digital revolution. Plus: Golden Corral and Walgreen's revelations, SnappyMart and Food Basket makeovers, multiplex and mega-sports plans.


Spotlight on...

Silver Imaging Photo Lab

"Oh, the fun never stops!" says Melinda Austin. She and her husband, George Austin, owners of Silver Imaging Photo Lab & Portrait Studio, have just completed their annual contract with Silver High School. That's 762 students — 580 undergrad pictures for the yearbook and 182 individual senior portraits — as well as the official team pictures for a half-dozen sports, and three special social events: homecoming, the Winter Ball and, of course, the prom.

George and Melinda Austin, owners and chief photo magicians at Silver Imaging Photo Lab and Portrait Studio in Silver City, show off their new connection to LifePics. (Photo by Donna Clayton Lawder)

Happy to have just put the finishing touches on the all-important senior portraits, Melinda says, "We went out to celebrate this past Saturday night and we're ready to start again with next year's."

The Austins have been helping people save their memories — in prints and now also as archived digital images — for 12 years. And their ability to accommodate customers' changing needs and tastes, and to offer hands-on assistance and service, they say, are the reasons their business has continued to thrive.

That, and keeping up with the fast-changing world of photo technology, which has undergone a digital revolution in the dozen years the Austins have been in business. An in-store Lucidiom photo kiosk, for instance, now enables customers to download and edit their digital images for printing as well as copy them to disk. "We're thinking of adding another one soon," Melinda says. George and Melinda are on hand to offer on-the-spot guidance and customers can have their images printed right there at Silver Imaging.

And Melinda strongly recommends printing your digital pictures. "I've been preaching that probably for the past four years," she says. "Digital is fine, but hard copies are important." She points out that photos printed from home computers to ink-jet paper fade. CDs can get scratched and oxidize, she says. "If people don't print, they may not have an album to go back to."

Melinda is also the company's photo-restoration expert, bringing many an old cracked and curled black-and-white photo back from near ruin. She's even retrieved digital images a customer had deleted from his camera's memory card by mistake. "The camera company told him that the images were lost forever, but we managed to get most of them for him and print them," she says.

Silver Imaging also has become a LifePics dealer, through which their customers can edit, print, preserve and share their photos. George explains the straightforward process: a customer downloads images, the order comes to Silver Imaging and is printed.

"As soon as I hit that button that says the order is complete, the customer gets an email back saying, 'Your photos are ready for pick-up,' " he says. Customers also can create shareable online photo albums at the LifePics Web site, and even order photo-gifts — mugs, mouse pads, calendars, shirts and more — diplaying their images.

Along with everyday photo printing in all forms, Silver Imaging offers traditional formal portraits. People still bring in their new babies to have professional photos taken and keepsake albums made, Melinda says. "The 'generations' type of portraits, family portraits, people still want to preserve those special moments," she says. The portrait studio has a variety of settings, backdrops and props, and the Austins also shoot portraits in the outdoors — Silver City's Big Ditch Park is a big one locally.

Getting back to those senior portraits, Melinda says the seniors set up their appointments and get one to two hours for photos, then choose from dozens of proofs.

George adds that many of the young people have brought in special props — a tuba, an ancient sword, a saxophone and a snake were some of the more interesting items this past season — and can have several wardrobe changes during a shoot. As Melinda points out some of the interesting pictures on the ever-changing portrait wall — a father tenderly gazing upon his newborn, a particularly pretty senior adopting a classic Marilyn Monroe pose — George answers the phone. "June 1st it is, then," he says and hangs up.

"Okay, then," he says brightly. "We have our first senior portrait appointment for the new season!"

"See?" Melinda says with a smile. "It never ends!"

Silver Imaging Photo Lab and Portrait Studio, 215 W. College Avenue, Silver City, www.silverimaging.lifepics.com, 538-8658.


New in Town

Conservatory of Dance has opened at 2020 Cottage San Road in Silver City, the site of the old Gila Trophies and Gifts. Under the direction of owner Melinda Shaner, the conservatory offers classes for students 2 1/2 years old through adult. A core curriculum of ballet is emphasized, although other forms of dance also are taught. The conservatory is now accepting student applications, and sells a full section of modern dancewear. 538-5865.

Intellectual Lighting & Audio, a family-owned store specializing in home and office lighting, electrical work, audio and video equipment, musical instruments and amplifier repair, has opened in Silver City. Owner Andy Turner says he hopes locals will be able to satisfy their lighting and music needs right here at home. He and his wife, Kristi, formerly owned Intellectual Audio in Maui, Hawaii. The store is located at 1775 E. Hwy. 180, in the former home of TMV Electrical. 538-2259.

Rick Hammrick and Gregg Gantner have opened Dromos de Mesilla, a home design store selling artifacts and art from the Mediterranean and other parts around the globe, at 1802 Avenida de Mesilla in Las Cruces. Hammrich and Gantner have been in the business more than 25 years, opening Dromos stores in Colorado, Arizona, Utah and California. They currently still operate a store in Palm Springs, Calif. "Dromos" is a Greek word describing the ancient road leading to the temple, and the company's name builds on the idea that one's home is one's temple. 525-0525.

Yessica Naisbitt has opened Yessica's Spanish @ Home, offering private instruction in clients' own homes or her home office at 1720 N. Alabama St. in Silver City. 534-4622.

Two Spirit Gallery is opening in the front retail space at the Silco Theater on Bullard Street in Silver City. The cooperative business slated for the space, announced in a prior Business Exposure column, backed out.

The Neutral Zone, a non-profit agency offering mediation services and child access and visitation to families in conflict, has opened at 908 N. Hudson St. in Silver City, next to PNM. "I think we fill the gap left when SWAK (Southwest Advocates for Kids) closed down," says executive director Amanda Stoever. The Neutral Zone has two special rooms for family use — a 15-minute room for child exchanges, so parents in conflict don't need to come in contact with each other over shared custody arrangements, and a visitation room, where family members can spend time with a child in a "safe" setting, for an hour at a time on a sliding-scale fee basis. The center employs the services of three mediators, an administrative assistant and a therapeutic visitation monitor who assures child safety. The agency just received funding through CYFD for its access and visitation program, and the group has partnered with the local family counseling center to provide eight-week parenting classes through Western New Mexico Un
iversity. The Neutral Zone is open 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. 534-9920.

Key Research, a Fort Sumner-based medical research company, is opening a new office at 301 W. College Ave., in the College Avenue Plaza in Silver City. Ken Barr will be managing the new facility. Key Research offers BMI laser therapy, a treatment developed by Dr. Ken West. Barr expects to open the office's doors in early June. 534-4577.

Cheryl L. Frank is operating Free Flow Massage at 133 Wyatt Drive, Suite 1 in Las Cruces, offering full body Swedish, deep tissue and on-site corporate chair massage. www.freeflowmassage.com, 532-9447.

And bringing massage right to your door is Janielle Lynn Wing, who has opened Healing Therapy, a mobile massage business. Wing offers massage in her office at 4210 N. Kiva Place in Silver City, and also will drive to clients' homes. She specializes in Thai massage as well as traditional Swedish. 574-8520.

Ken Anderson has got it all covered — the floor, that is. Anderson has opened Southwest Carpet Grooming, a full-service carpet cleaning business, based at 75 Valley Drive in Silver City. 388-3448.

Misty Gonzales, a registered nurse, has opened Mariposa Hospice & Palliative Care at 1315 N. Pope St. in Silver City. 388-0808.

Hair Classic, a new hair salon owned and operated by Maria Anchondo, has opened at 202 E. 11th St. in Silver City, offering all professional hair services. 538-5559.

FirstLight Credit Union has opened at 3791 E. Lohman Ave. in Las Cruces, joining the plethora of banking institutions in the area. The full-service bank has eight — count 'em eight — drive-thru lanes, a night deposit drop slot and two ATMs. For those still desirous of close encounters of the human kind, there also are six walk-up retail tellers and one commercial window.


Heads in Beds

After numerous delays, the new Hampton Inn on Griggs Avenue in Las Cruces has finally opened for business. The new 73-room facility near the Furr's supermarket cost around $3 million to build and originally hoped to open last November, but had its date pushed up a few times. General manager Belia Alvarez couldn't be happier to throw open the doors at last.

The extended-stay hotel Value Place hopes to open this year at the corner of Triviz Drive and Wisconsin Avenue in Las Cruces. The four-story facility will have 133 rooms.

And speaking of hotels, a new Holiday Inn is coming to Mesilla. The company plans to put a 140-room facility in the Mesilla Valley Mall in the space that used to house the Beall's department store.

On the other side of the coin in the Mesilla lodging industry, Cali McCord still has not been able to reopen her Meson de Mesilla at 1803 Avenida de Mesilla. McCord purchased the inn last year and immediately shut down the place for a massive remodel. McCord, a long-time professional entertainer, plans to sing with a jazz band at the restaurant, which she plans to call Torch.


The Plot Thickens...

It was a lot more complicated than the cost of new upholstery for the booths. Though corporate representatives for the Golden Corral restaurant reported that the Silver City restaurant closed because it couldn't afford to pay for a chain-mandated remodel, there apparently were more sinister reasons behind the eatery's insolvency. Thanks to a new tipster, Business Exposure has learned that former Tucsonan Frank Kolk stole nearly $2 million from NCH, a real-estate development company that also operates commercial franchises, including Golden Corral restaurants. Kolk was hired by NCH in 1997 and put in charge of NCH's accounting and recordkeeping for several Golden Corrals. As if setting out to prove it's bad business practice to have one person doing the bookkeeping, accounting and check writing, Kolk, with high-level signatory authority, wrote checks to himself from numerous NCH bank accounts, created a fictitious employee whom he also paid and whose checks he, of course, cashed, and paid his personal credit card bills with NCH funds. Kolk was recently sentenced in Arizona to 46 months in prison to be followed by four years supervised release and ordered to pay a $400 special assessment and $2.5 million in restitution to NCH. He tearfully apologized at his plea-bargain hearing, saying his desire to get rich and drive fancy cars led him to make big mistakes. The restaurant property in Silver City is listed for sale for just over $1 million, with the description: "A successful Golden Corral Restaurant that closed in April due to franchisee legal problems."


Bigger and Better

Legacy Lighting is moving up the street to larger quarters at 910 N. Hudson St., across from The Sparks Clinic, in Silver City. The space, recently vacated by the retiring Pegasus Computer store, will give Legacy (which plans to change its name to Legacy Home) more room to expand its lines of lighting fixtures and fine home furnishings. 388-1226.

Expect a fresh look at all the area SnappyMarts and Food Basket grocery stores. Owners Jim and Deborah Nennich, who also own the Wrangler's Bar & Grill in Arenas Valley (see this issue's Table Talk), have already remodeled their Arenas Valley convenience store, are working on the Swan Street SnappyMart in Silver City, and are just beginning work on the Silver City Food Basket. The Nenniches operate nine SnappyMarts, in Silver City, Arenas Valley, Bayard and Deming, and two Food Baskets, in Silver City and Bayard. New tile counters, spanking-new tile floors and up-to-the-minute cash register systems are going into all outlets, according to Deborah Nennich. "Business has been very good," she says, "and we are very thankful for that, and happy that we can provide these upgrades for our customers to enjoy and benefit from."

Elemental Day Spa & Salon has added to its staff once again. Valerie Quintano, from northern New Mexico, has joined the crew as a massage therapist, specializing in Thai message, and Roxy Rosales, relocated from Tucson, has come on board as a cosmetologist. Co-owner Mari King checks in to say that longtime front desk professional D. Rae has been promoted to general manager, and that Toni and Lynette, core professionals with the spa, have recently been certified in dermabrasion and cellulite treatments, expanding the business' specialized service offerings and availability. 534-1811.

Flowerings, the flower and gift shop on Yankie Street in Silver City, has been awarded a contract with the Gila Regional Medical Center. Flowerings proprietor Vickie Sexton, who just recently bought the floral and gift business, reports that a portion of the sales goes to the hospital's auxiliary.

Holly Sytch, owner of A la Mode at 704 Bullard St. in Silver City, has reopened her doors and added fine antique home furnishings to her business. The retail store is open Monday-Saturday. 388-2474.


Coming Soon

We don't need no stinkin' Walgreen's! A new "Deep Throat" source to Business Exposure confirms that Silver City will not be getting a Walgreen's, after all, but that an Alltel cellular retail outlet, a big name sporting-goods store, a Rent-A-Center and a Maurice's women's clothing store will take up occupancy at the commercial spot being developed on Hwy. 180, next to the Dollar General and nail salon.

Prudential Silver City Properties soon will open a new office at 2991 Hwy. 35 in the Mimbres, a sign of the thriving real estate office's success and the better to serve the valley, says proprietor and qualifying broker Patrick Conlin. The Silver City office has been open since August 2005 and has seven associate brokers. Conlin says he's hoping for a June 15 opening in the Mimbres, and that associate broker Robin Thomas will manage that office. Silver City office: 538-0404; Mimbres office: 536-2900.

David Furnas checked in to say that his music studio project, Mountain Air Productions, will not be developed at The Wherehouse in Silver City, as planned and mentioned previously in Business Exposure, but that he has partnered with Alan and Nan Spragens, owners of Seedboat Gallery and instead will open up shop in 4,000 square feet of their Yankie Street location. "The business was not compatible with the Chihuahua Hill community, and this space has excellent acoustics," Furnas says. In addition to the recording studio operations, the company will operate the independent "DSB" music label and open a live music venue. Furnas says there are plans to secure a wine and beer license and serve appetizer/bar fare. "I see it being like the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco," he says.

Attention sports fans: a whopper of a new sports complex is coming to Las Cruces! Local businessman Randy Najar says he's done the research, and finds plenty of opportunity for the 81,000-square-foot facility he hopes to build at 1020 N. Telshor Blvd., near the Furniture Row and Kitchen Kraft. The facility is to include a 32-lane bowling alley, nightclub, sports bar and billiard hall. There also will be a 23,000-square-foot space that could host wrestling and boxing matches and concerts. Najar hopes to break ground in the next few months for the project, estimated to cost between $7 million and $8 million and take a year to complete.

Three new Pic Quiks are coming to Cruces. Oscar Andrade, who owns several of the convenience and grocery stores in town, soon will break ground for a new store — family-oriented and with a car wash, to boot — on South Main Street, and another — housing a Caliche's, Subway and Santa Fe Grill — to be located near the Sonoma Ranch exit of the interstate.

Additionally, another Pic Quik, this one not an Andrade-owned store, will be part of the new commercial development at the corner of University Avenue and Telshor Blvd. Ground has been broken at that parcel of more than 13 acres, slated for a convenience store, hotel and bank branch.

Allen Theaters plans to build a new multiplex in Las Cruces. The company's Web site confirms the plan for a facility with stadium seating and state-of-the-art sound, but representatives for Allen Theaters are not ready to talk about the project yet. Currently Las Cruces moviegoers have the Telshor 12, which opened in 1998, the Video 4 on El Paseo, and the recently refurbished Cinema 4 at the Mesilla Valley Mall, with its dreamy new seats.

Bank of the Rio Grande, which broke ground for a new branch on Northrise in Las Cruces, hopes to open that branch in early 2008.

Comcast in Silver City will roll out cable Internet service beginning July 1. Contrary to earlier news reports, we're told service will extend beyond city limits in some areas, notably Silver Acres.

This That and The Other, a thrift shop, soon will open at 217 N. Bullard St. in Silver City, the high-profile windowed storefront left empty by a vacating antiques business.


Going, Going, Gone!

Pegasus Software and Computer Shoppe in Silver City has closed, due to its owners retiring. In business since 1989, the Huffaker family thanks their many loyal customers.

Lyn and Richard Orona report that they have sadly closed Galeria 200 in Deming.

Faywood Hot Springs is slated to be sold at public auction June 28. Specialty real estate firm Higgenbotham Auctioneers International is handling the sale of the nearly 1,300-acre property, to be sold in eight parcels.



Robert Parra, of Robert's Real Estate, says there has been a goodly amount of interest in the now-closed Caballeros restaurant he used to manage on Hwy. 180 In Arenas Valley. Potential buyers have had varying plans for the property — including a teen center, a jail facility and rental units — but no one has yet signed on the dotted line. 313-5579.

Email business news and tips to Senior Editor
Donna Clayton Lawder at donna@desertexposure.com.


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