Last year our editorial staff thought it was appropriate to recognize the “unsung heroes” in our industry—those retail associates who spend their time and energy learning about every new product. And sharing their wisdom with customers at virtually every photographic level.
We’re proud to continue this feature with our second annual Superstars behind the Counter salute. These 10 retail associates were nominated by their peers and by the manufacturers who appreciate their efforts on the front lines. We’d like to thank those who submitted nominations, and we look forward to continuing this tradition for years to come.
We’re pleased to present our superstar honorees.
2019 DIR Salutes Superstars
Melinda is the right-hand person to owner Charlie Landefeld. She coordinates all social media, handles all event schedules and programs, handles computer issues as well as runs the operations for both the Roseville and Reno locations, when Charlie Landefeld is unavailable.
Without a doubt, she is the quintessential person who any retail owner would want to have as their chief associate. Oh by the way, Melinda can also sell and has a strong clientele of her own that loves to work with her. She is the whole package!—Nominated by Lew Held and Sigma
St. Louis, Missouri
Lona wears many hats. She is an exceptional salesperson and is one of the main buyers for our camera store. Her attitude is always phenomenal and customer centric. The ownership and I rely on Lona daily, because she is so detail oriented in everything she does, all while having a smile on her face. Moreover, her ability to merchandise our store is awe-inspiring. She has a vision and turns it into a reality.
When Lona helps customers, I know that the service they receive is the best possible and they will share it with their family and friends. We have received numerous letters and positive online reviews about her attitude and never-ending willingness to promote photography. When a new product is introduced, she is the first to learn about it and share it with the staff. I am proud to nominate Lona for this prestigious recognition.—Nominated by Robb Muller, Schiller’s Camera
Art’s Cameras Plus
Pewaukee and Greenfield, Wisconsin
Meg is a true sales professional who treats every customer like they are buying a $3,000 camera bundle—even if they’ve just come in to order prints from the kiosk. She greets them with a smile, asks questions and recommends the right products. Meg gets to know her customers and often contacts them if we’ve just gotten in a used lens that would benefit them.
In addition, she teaches classes, goes out on our photo shoots and is a star on our social media posts! She also has a special bond with new moms, because she is one herself. Even when her baby keeps her up half the night, Meg shows up ready to work, pitching in with whatever the store needs her to do. I’ve been blessed with a great team, and there are several I could nominate, but Meg is a true rock star!—Nominated by Tony Miresse, Art’s Cameras Plus
Los Angeles, California
Kelly Bonsack is the type of salesperson you want to have behind your counter. She cares about the customer truly getting the right item. She is honest, hardworking, has an attention to detail and is always thinking about how to make the customer experience better.
In addition to being an expert in all brands, Kelly, along with another valuable coworker, is in charge of the Nikon counter at Samy’s Camera in Los Angeles. Moreover, she takes pride in keeping the area well organized and inviting. Kelly has an eye for detail and takes the initiative to make things better whenever and wherever possible. Most important, she is a fantastic salesperson who cares about Samy’s customers.—Nominated by Larry Rougas, Nikon
Phil is the manager of Roberts Camera’s flagship store in downtown Indianapolis. He provides customer experiences and forges relationships with the customers while still finding time to have a life outside work with his wife. He is also one of the few camera store employees I’ve met in recent years who still shows a print to a customer (in an otherwise printless era via social media) to sell a camera.
I’ve met a lot of people in this industry, but no one is quite like Phil. He is always smiling and makes everyone around him better by being a natural leader. His experience with the equipment he sells gives him a genuine enthusiasm for this industry, so he can offer an objective opinion to any customer that walks in the store. Moreover, in his spare time, Phil photographs nature, wildlife and concerts. His love for music also makes him an asset to Roberts. He is an elite industry professional and Roberts is fortunate to have him. Every store would be lucky to have a guy like Phil. A++ in my book!—Nominated by Brad Cohn, Panasonic
Precision Camera & Video
Tamra Green is a sales leader at Precision Camera in Austin, Texas. She greets people with her Texas-friendly warmth and good humor. Her eyes focus on her customers’ eyes, listening genuinely to understand their needs. Tamra offers alternatives and gives informed recommendations. As a result, customers leave the store confident in their purchase.
In addition, Tamra has created and teaches model-specific classes on several cameras. She is a gifted teacher whose students complete classes with smiles and new capabilities to use their cameras confidently. Tamra was also a Canon contest winner who attended the 2017 Albuquerque Balloon Festival.—Nominated by David Coy, Canon USA
Bergen County Camera
Westwood, New Jersey
Nearly four decades ago, I asked my brother if he wanted to be part of founding a store dedicated to providing world-class customer service, catering to those who love photography and desire to be treated as family. To say my junior brother has taken this to ridiculous extremes would understate his devotion to that concept. “Can I speak to Bob” is the most frequently heard question by phone or in Bergen County Camera.
Bob built a rabidly loyal clientele that includes three generations of some families, along with friends and neighbors. That these also include storied names among leading musicians, actors, comedians, politicians, doctors, lawyers and heads of industry would be no surprise. What’s exemplary is that those relationships are lifelong, family wide and continue long past their moves from our vicinity with frequent calls for assistance from the four corners of the earth!
Bob will pick up and deliver near or far on his own time based on the sometimes-wacky schedules of those he helps. The only common element is bespoke attention, dedication, concern and personal involvement. It matters not if you’re a household name or just part of a household that loves photography! He’s been a pillar of BCC’s success and longevity.—Nominated by Tom Gramegna, Bergen County Camera
Bedford Camera & Video
Luke has been a tireless proponent of both photography and our system. He is knowledgeable as well as adept at educating everyone from amateurs just starting out to experienced photographers looking to refine their skills. He also has been a great help to his local community and to Bedford Camera & Video.
In addition, Luke is an extremely talented photographer himself who is generous and open with his skills and always willing to help others learn and grow. Most important, he is honest with his feedback and genuine in his enthusiasm.—Nominated by Bing Liem, Fujifilm
Los Angeles, California
Jonathan has worked in the photo industry for 11 years as a salesperson. In 2015, he was one of the top salesperson contest winners and was invited to Miami for an iHeart concert all-inclusive trip. For the last four years, working in the Fairfax location, he has been a voice providing insights at retail on Sony products.
Manufacturers value Jonathan’s candor and opinion on imaging products. Over 12 years ago, he moved to Los Angeles to learn filmmaking. While attending film school, he started to learn photography as well. Jonathan loves to document as an experience, behind the scenes and part of the scene. Movies and music have always had an influence on the way he does things, so he applies it to the work he does.—Nominated by John Bruehl, Sony
Buffalo, New York
Vicente’s photographic and product knowledge is exceeded only by his personality; describing him as “friendly” does this guy a disservice! At Delaware Camera’s Buffalo, New York, location, Vicente greets his would-be customers with quick-witted movie trivia or topical humor. He also develops relationships with his clientele that one could easily mistake for lifelong friendships.
In addition, when not working behind the counter, Vicente runs the educational programs at Delaware Camera. He offers private tutorials as well as group seminars and workshops on a variety of photographic topics. Outside of the store, he focuses on his passion projects: working with kids in art and photography at a local after-school program; and connecting with the underserved population of the Greater Buffalo area through photography. Pro tip: if you’re lucky enough to catch Vicente in the store, be sure to get a restaurant recommendation!—Nominated by Andrew Martin, Tamron