Digital Imaging Reporter is pleased to present our 2020 Superstars behind the Counter salute. The winners were nominated by their managers, their peers as well as manufacturers who recognize their value and appreciate their tireless efforts on the front lines every day.
We call them the “unsung heroes” in our industry—those retail associates who spend their time and energy learning about every new product and who share their wisdom with customers at virtually every photographic level.
We’re proud to continue this feature with our third annual Superstars behind the Counter salute. We’d like to thank those who submitted nominations, and we look forward to continuing this tradition for years to come.
DIR’s 2020 Superstars behind the Counter Winners
Sonnie Jones: Midwest Photo, Columbus, Ohio
While there are many attributes that aid in Sonnie’s outstanding sales skills, the one that outshines all the rest is certainly his excellent customer service skills. Sonnie does not hesitate to go above and beyond to assure that his customers are fully taken care of.
Moreover, when I say “his” customers, that is not an exaggeration. Midwest Photo is a fine, customer-focused photo dealer; however, in the end, many of those customers trust Sonnie’s judgment and rely on the relationship that he has built with them. That is why they spend their money at Midwest. Sonnie is truly one of a kind!—Nominated by Katrina Andino, Tamron USA
Christopher Balmer: Perfect Light Camera & Supply, West Yellowstone, Montana
Christopher Balmer is a lead instructor and global workshop guru of Perfect Light Camera & Supply as well as the all-new Yellowstone Camera. Christopher quite literally preaches the creative fundamentals and unlimited sources of inspiration to be found in the art of photography. Furthermore, while he’s doing so, he sees to it that his students are uplifted in the process.
In addition, when Christopher sells you a piece of equipment, he’s not interested in any profit other than the aggregate gain you, the photograph, will see in its addition to your kit. Both Perfect Light and Yellowstone Camera have become powerhouses in the Rocky Mountain territory because of this. Talk to his students as well as his stores’ client base and you’ll find not just customers but flat-out devotees to the Balmer method. That’s because Christopher is a not just a force of nature in and out of the classroom or on and off the sales floor, he’s also, to the best of his ability, a force for good. His ripple effect in the photographic community is literally global and definitely something to see, indeed.—Nominated by Suzanne Palermo, Tamron USA
Scott Crone: Roberts Camera, Indianapolis, Indiana
Scott Crone came to us as a photographer and certified public accountant who was looking to get out from behind a desk; he wanted to get immersed in photography. We brought Scott on as a sales associate two years ago; it was one of the best decisions we could have made. Scott is an incredible photographer who utilizes his skills on Instagram to showcase the beauty of our great state. Moreover, he always goes the extra mile for his customers.
His product knowledge, understanding of the industry’s rebate programs and desire to get the customer the best possible price and product is second to none. Whether he is working with a beginner who is looking to move away from a phone or a seasoned professional, Scott puts together a solution that will work for their needs. He listens and follows up. He is such a great promoter of the profession of photography, the photography community here in Indy and of Roberts. We are lucky to have him as a part of our team.—Nominated by Meredith Reinker, Roberts Camera
Bobbi-Ann Kurtzman: Cardinal Camera, Lansdale, Pennsylvania
Bobbi is a longtime employee of Cardinal Camera, and her photography skills have grown alongside many of her customers. She not only services customers with great personal interaction but also provides her time and knowledge to educate consumers and fellow photographers alike. The customers praise her enthusiasm and commitment.
When Cardinal Camera conducts a photo walk, class or photo event, Bobbi is always the first retail sales associate willing to assist fellow photographers with their needs. Whether they are Sony shooters like her, adamantly never going mirrorless, Bobbi always provides customers with education, expertise and even her own private phone number, because she’s willing to help any time. What’s more, she has an exceptional passion for photography and is an accomplished photographer herself.—Nominated by John Bruehl, Sony
Kris Krainock and Bryen Trawick: B&C Camera, Las Vegas, Nevada
Kris and Bryen’s expertise in the realm of videography is a huge asset, not only for our store but for our entire community. Customers rely on their personal experiences in the field and their keen understanding of the industry for guidance. Outside of B&C Camera, Kris is a filmmaker and Bryen is a freelance videographer.
Together, they developed a series of introductory video classes for the B&C Hub classroom; it lays the groundwork for aspiring videographers looking for a viable alternative to college courses for their education. Since the success of the beginner series, Bryen has developed more advanced classes for our students. In addition, thanks to Kris’s knowledge and assistance with Canon’s Cinema EOS branch, we are now able to offer our customers industry-standard cine gear from Canon.—Nominated by Prince Beverly, B&C Camera
Danielle Hudson: Hunt’s Photo & Video, Melrose, Massachusetts
Danielle is a longtime Panasonic Lumix user and GH5s video shooter. She is also consistently among the highest in sales each month despite being in the company for less time than her coworkers. Moreover, she works on her days off with customers to help them understand their cameras, furthering sales and accessories.
She’s an asset to Hunt’s as well as a resource in knowledge for the entire store. She’s always helping out with video sales and recommends the absolute best camera to meet each customer’s needs, regardless of brand and her preference. In addition, Danielle works hard to improve her knowledge and always reaches out when she needs help or wants to learn more about a topic. Her sales skills are second to none, as is her generosity with her time and knowledge. For this she’s my pick.—Nominated by Kristin Long, Panasonic
Joe Klocek: Mike’s Camera, Boulder, Colorado
Joe is extremely active in all aspects of photography, from selling to teaching. He creates new workshops that typically sell out to our students; he also has his own YouTube channel, Photography Talk.
In addition, he is always looking for new ideas on ways to sell and has valuable input on products to carry as well as to not carry. Joe receives a great amount of online reviews for his teaching as well as his customer service; he also often wins our Talk of the Town for his excellent service. Moreover, he loves to visit with local camera clubs to share his knowledge and promote the industry.—Nominated by Mike Dobson, Mike’s Camera
Maria Tamez: Bedford Camera & Video, Springdale, Arkansas
We nominate a Bedford employee, Maria Tamez, for Superstars behind the Counter. Bedford is a dealer that has a great deal of heart relative to photography; in general, there is a great respect for their relationship with industry manufacturers, although I speak firsthand on behalf of Sigma.
The overall kindness of Bedford’s staff is a result of the close-knit environment that comes from a family owned business run by the son of the founder. This, I’m sure, is in part the reason an employee like Maria is as dedicated as she is.—Nominated by Christine Moossmann, Sigma
Kate Sage: Service Photo, Baltimore, Maryland
Kate has been with Service Photo for more than four years and is also one of their top-performing salespeople. She currently shoots with X-series gear and also uses it for some of her freelance work (katesage.info). Not only does she strongly support our line, but she also helps customers interested in other brands.
When I am working in New York City, I often meet tourists from Maryland who are currently Fujifilm shooters and who got their cameras from Kate at Service Photo. Moreover, Kate has a degree in graphic design from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and is a former dancer with the National Ballet Company.—Nominated by Dana Ranslemm, Fujifilm
Frank Multari: B&H Photo – Video, New York, New York
Frank does a lot of street photography as well as portrait work. He works in our professional photo department and is behind the counter assisting customers as they approach him and his colleagues.
We nominated Frank because of his outstanding welcoming persona; Frank is someone who has strong hands-on experience with most of the equipment that we demo and sell in our photo department. In addition, he goes above and beyond when qualifying a customer’s needs and wants.—Nominated by Henry Posner, B&H Photo