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Longtime Downtown shop closes

Lee family operated photo studio for six decades
By: Gloria Young,
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For six decades it was the place to go for photography needs — everything from getting a portrait taken to having film processed, purchasing cameras and restoring old photos. But the digital era changed all that. On Nov. 1, Downtown Auburn’s Lee Photo will close.
Jason Lee, the third generation of his family to run the store, is switching to a full-time mobile photography business.
“I got to see the business of photography transform — going from shooting film to digital photography and being able to see the photography industry change so dramatically in such a short time,” Lee said. “I saw what my grandfather did and my father did — and very little changed for them. But for me, it has changed so drastically.”
The original photography studio had already been in Downtown for many years when Lee’s grandfather, Howard Lee, purchased it in 1945. Howard Lee was an accountant with Standard Oil before he moved to Auburn to become a full-time photographer, Jason said.
By the 1960s, Byron Lee, Jason’s father — also a photographer — was working in the shop. Jason’s childhood is filled with memories of hanging out at the store.
“I was helping out behind the counter at 6 years old,” he said. “I always knew I wanted to be a photographer. Being a part of that business and being a photographer is such a big part of my life. I literally grew up in that building. After school I would go there and help my dad. I had chores to do at the studio. That will be the hard part, seeing that part of my life and childhood (gone) and not going to work there every day. I will miss that.”
He’ll also miss the people.
“I always really enjoyed the old time Auburn customers and sharing their lives with me and me sharing my life with them,” he said.
His parents operated the shop until the late 1990s, when they turned it over Jason.  In 2005 he shut down the camera sales part of the store. Since then he has become more and more involved in commercial work and he still does photo restoration.
“I do all the school photography for Skyridge Elementary and other schools,” he said. “I’m the official photographer for a band call Poor Man’s Poison. I shot their last cover and their promotional photos for their web site and their posters.”
Next door, Al and Lois Granstrom have operated The Chocolate Shoppe and Gift Emporium for 12 years at that site and have been in business for 17 years in Downtown.
“They’re part of what made Downtown Auburn — the old photography shop and the drug store,” Lois Granstrom said about Lee Photo. “It’s part of showing the ways the world is changing.”
After the store closes, Jason Lee will operate the business from a web site www.lee-photo.com. She’ll still offer photo restoration with pickup and delivery for local customers. And he’s planning to expand services.
The Lee family owns the building and Jason Lee’s mother and sister plan to open a retail sales shop at the site for picture frames, expanding their yourpictureframes. com Internet business, he said.
Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com.