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Small Business Spotlight: Reeves Photography

Alerus | JUN 20, 2015

What is it about a photograph that persuades its viewer’s eyes to linger, and prompts the mind to ask so many questions? Maybe we are not much different than the 19th century crowds seeing the early photographs, fascinated by how a picture stops motion and, in a very real sense, stops time itself. Maybe it is because a picture allows us to travel through time to see people and places that exist outside our living memory. Or maybe, as Reeves Photography owner Allie Penny says so simply, "photographs matter because they trigger the memory of what life was like at one discrete moment."

It is that idea, capturing what life is really like for people in and around Grand Forks, North Dakota, that animates Reeves Photography as a business, and Allie as its owner.

About the Owner

A child’s eventual career path is often surprising to parents, but Allie’s mother probably could have predicted that her daughter would end up a photographer. Growing up, Allie showed an affinity for cameras, and was always taking pictures and documenting life. Building up a repository of memories was important for her, even in her youth. 

Photography remained a strong interest throughout her teenage years, but Allie did not give it much consideration as a possible career, instead beginning college with the goal of becoming a nurse. Then, during the second semester of her freshman year, Allie met Brett, who would eventually become her husband. He was studying to become a pilot, his dream job since he could remember. Inspired by the way he was following his dream, Allie began to rethink her own plans. 

As a sophomore, and in an effort to find out whether photography would make her happy in life, Allie took a job at Reeves Photography, a small Grand Forks studio then under its second owner. She soon discovered that, for her, nursing was unlikely to match the satisfaction and enjoyment she got from capturing moments in time. Still, working at a studio is much different than running the operation and she never imagined ownership might be in her future.

She continued working at Reeves, and a few years later, the owner decided it was time to move on. Unsure of herself, but ready to take a chance, Allie decided that she would purchase the company and sink or swim based on a combination of her passion and whatever business acumen she could develop. She knew she could handle the photography and client relationship facets of the business, but was concerned about managing the numbers and the operation as a whole. Soon, though, with the support of her family, including her father, who happens to be an accountant, Allie realized that she could handle it, that it was okay to ask questions, and that there were people around her who could help her find the right answers.

Staying Motivated

These days, Allie does a great deal of portrait photography. It allows her to help people document major milestones in their lives – graduations, engagements, births, among others. And, it gives her the chance to watch families grow and change when the same customer comes in years after a photo shoot, ready to freeze another moment in time and preserve another memory. It is that building of memories, which she wanted so much to do as a child, that motivates Allie to keep going all these years later.

About the Business

Reeves Photography was founded in Grand Forks, where the original owner converted part of her house on Reeves Drive into a studio, giving the company its name. The business has since moved to downtown Grand Forks, where it is located today. 

Portrait photography is Allie’s current focus. Many of her customers come to her seeking photos involving newborns, family portraits, graduations, corporate headshots, dance and gymnastics, engagement sessions, and virtually any other context that involves people as subjects.

Spontaneity is one thing that makes Reeves Photography stand out. "Part of capturing what life is really like," Allie says, "is enjoying the pictures that aren’t as posed as others." For example, if a child makes a silly face in a family photo, she’ll include that in the customer’s set of images. “I love capturing the way your child was right in the moment, because pretty soon they won’t be doing that silly, scrunchy-nosed smile anymore,” she explains. 

The studio itself is a relaxed atmosphere, part of Allie’s effort to make every customer comfortable in a situation that, for some people, is not always the easiest. She is often told that her studio feels like a home, and she hopes that helps people relax so they can get some great photos.

About the Alerus Relationship

Allie says her parents are longtime Alerus customers, so they opened an account for her when she was little, and she’s never wanted to bank anywhere else. “I still remember getting my debit card when I was 14,” she says, “I thought I was so fancy and grown up!”

As a business owner, she says she really values Mike Helt’s knowledge, advice, and friendliness. She credits him with explaining a variety of aspects of business financing when she was first starting out as a business owner, and helping her make the best decisions for herself and her company. She enjoys the way Mike proactively checks in with her every so often just to see how things are going and to offer assistance if it’s needed.

The personal touch is something Allie enjoys about Alerus. “The tellers are always very friendly and often they even know your name,” she says. She also says the Customer Care Center phone line is a great tool, with her calls being picked up quickly and her questions answered by a knowledgeable and friendly representative.

“I would recommend Alerus to business owners because I truly believe they care about the success of their customers,” Allie states. “It’s big enough that it can offer a lot of different options for people, yet it does have a small-town feel, where you can walk in and recognize faces at the different locations.”

Contacting Reeves Photography

If you would like to learn more about Reeves Photography and what Allie Penny might be able to do for you, check out the studio’s website or call 701.775.5055. The studio is conveniently located in downtown Grand Forks.

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