By JOHN T. WARD
In retailing, where rents are steep and space is priced by the square foot, every one of them has to count toward the top line.
Or so goes one school of thinking. Another says there needs to be room for atmosphere and mood to stir and stoke the consumerist impulse. For that matter, not every retail tenant has to be selling something tangible.
Wedding and boudoir photographers John and Lovina Arcara have joined a recent resurgence in Red Bank: tenants of primo storefront space selling nothing more than memories.
Someone walking into Arcaras new location at 64 Broad Street without knowing what line of business they’re in might be hard-pressed to guess. Let’s see: there’s a comfortable seating area in the middle of the wood floor, a small liquor cart in a corner and oversized prints of travel photos and other images running the length of the side walls. It might suggest an art gallery and there’s certainly something to that.
But the Arcaras sell their services as photographers and videographers of weddings and sexy come-hither sessions with clients clad in lingerie and little else, if that. The 2,300-square-foot space, says John Arcara, is meant to establish a mood, and create a zone of comfort for potential customers, for whom the selection of a wedding photographer is no small matter.
“Really, it’s a big meeting place for our clients,” who tend to be affluent and to “expect something more” from the experience of selecting a photographer, he said.
The aim, he said, is to have clients view the Arcaras at “the friend with the fancy camera” at the wedding.
“When the bride-to-be is down the street having a gown-fitting at Mustillo‘s, the groom can come here and hang out,” he said.
The couple, who live in Tinton Falls, are certainly not the first photographers to occupy storefront space. John’s late father, also named John, had one in Middletown for many years. But they are part of trend that would suggest that photography services can hold their own against a tide of rising retail rents.
A little more than a year ago, CLB Photography and its sibling, LoBoudoir Photography, joined with Sounds to Go DJ service to take over the glassy, high-profile street-level space at 21 East Front Street. Just five months later, Kramer Portraits relocated from an easy-to-miss storefront on Broad Street near Harding Road to the former Kislin’s space, also on East Front.
The Arcaras had been renting space above their present location for several years. They’d outgrown it, but were locked into a lease. Landlord Michael Morgan offered them the storefront, which was vacated by Jennifer Quinn Payne’s T. Berry Square children’s clothing store back in June, at no increase in rent, said Arcara.
Does it make economic sense?
“We’ve been doing this long enough that a bigger space is something we can handle,” Lovina said by telephone. “We’re able to have this and not look like, ‘what are they doing?'”
The Arcaras bill their business as “punk rock wedding photography,” which John describes as “high fashion with a real rock and roll edge” and Lovina characterizes as “more old Hollywood glamour,” particularly in the boudoir shots, which are most done in suites at the Berkeley Hotel in Asbury Park.