April 8, 2010

Just 48 hours left to get scammed again by a JT ad...
And what this all means to a small businessman

If you saw an ad in the newspaper that said: "Just 48 hours left..." would you believe it?
Well, just such an ad is in today's Journal Times. Only problem: It also appeared in the JT on March 6,  almost 800 hours ago. So was it lying then or are we just lucky to have a second chance?

Worse yet, the ad is promoting a bogus "collectible" -- genuine $2 bills with a sticker saying "Wisconsin" -- for the low, low price of about $15 apiece. I guess we should be happy there's no mention of the Brooklyn Bridge. This scam has been thoroughly debunked. Here's our story from March. Don't fall for it this time, either.

Or, send me just $5 -- you save 67% !! -- and I'll write the name of any state you want! on a $2 bill.  and send it to you. No limit; buy as many as you like! A complete set for each of your grandchildren! (+Shipping and Handling) Call our toll-free number; operators are standing by...

Actually, there's a serious side to this story -- beyond the warning to simply ignore this ad from the impressively named World Reserve Monetary Exchange -- and that is the precipitous decline of newspaper advertising over the past few years, and what it means. According to figures from the Newspaper Association of America, U.S. newspapers' print and online ad revenue dropped 27.2% in 2009 -- a loss of about $10 billion overall. Total newspaper ad revenues have fallen to where they were in 1986; how'd you like to live today on the salary you earned 24 years ago?

A number of newspapers and magazines have folded; all the rest are cutting expenses and scrambling to get by one way or another. So it should come as no surprise when that leads to the acceptance of hinky advertising like the $2 bill scam that would have been rejected in more prosperous times. Or the loss of journalists everywhere, and the out-sourcing of  even key services (the Kenosha News is now printed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

Sometimes, too, the pain is shifted to local, unrelated businesses, as newspapers scramble to earn any bucks they can, even from work they once disdained ... like photo restoration? Yes, in what must be the most minor of sidelines -- and perhaps even a distraction to the paper's three remaining photo-journalists -- the Journal Times has entered the photo restoration business.

To the dismay of Douglas Wick -- the mustachioed, pony-tailed, sometimes-dressed-as-Uncle Sam proprietor of Main Street's Olde Tyme Photography store, who's been doing photo restoration for the past 26 years. Longer, actually; Doug's father, Ray, opened his first photo business in Racine in 1946, located at the Venetian Theatre, 507 Main St.  Doug worked for his dad since childhood, "as a grasshopper emptying garbage cans." After Ray sold the business in 1983,  Doug opened his own store in 1984 at 303-303 1/2 Main St. (in what had been a cheese and sausage store called Port Gilbert), using mostly borrowed and scrounged equipment. "I had nothing. I was making popcorn and eating popcorn. I had just the front part of the store, lots of recycled stuff. The camera was borrowed, as were the trays, the enlarger."

Doug Wick at Olde Tyme Photography, with his trusty 4x5 camera

He did portrait photography as well as photo restoration: copying and restoring photos, air brushing out defects from customers' old pictures.

And now he feels threatened by the Journal Times, a former customer (and the medium in which he placed much of his advertising, when he could afford to.) Looking around his three-part store (He answers phones like this: 'Common Scents, Pack 'n Ship, Olde Tyme Photos.'), Wick says, "It's like a circus in here. And while I know all about taming the lions, the latest sock in the gut is a media that can't survive on its own, but wants to destroy everything in its path."

OK, that's a bit hyperbolic. Even Wick concedes the point. Still, he says, "Just because their media is dying, why take down somebody else's market? Who else will they attack next?"

Photo restoration used to be an artist's domain, done with paint and airbrush. Now, like so much else, it's gone digital; every computer comes with at least basic photo retouching software. Wick, who used to use a 4x5 sheet film camera to make a glossy, high-resolution copy of photos for retouching artists to airbrush, and then re-photograph the result on sepia-tone fiber-based paper, has been digital for nine years. "Restoration has always been a good component of my business," he says. Less so now -- and he fears even less than that in the future, now that the Journal Times has entered the business and undercut the prices he hasn't raised for more than 10 years.

"They scan negatives for 29 cents," he says. "They have the equipment to do it and make a nickel. I have to charge 60 cents to make a dime. They have all the technology. They don't have to pay for advertising. They have people there anyway; keep 'em busy."

Wick said he called someone at Walgreens, which does a lot of photo developing (for those few Luddites who still use something called film), and photo printing for many digital photography hobbyists, looking for an ally against the Journal Times. "But Walgreens doesn't care," he said. His contact there merely shrugged and said, "That's competition."

Says Wick: "That's 'big' vs. 'big.' It's different for the little guy." Which, of course, it is... as little retailers have known for decades. Wick knows the drill: "Mom and Pop opened a small grocery just to be able to feed their family. Then Kohl's and Kroger came in and all those little corner grocery stores are gone. Open Pantry is a big business; their size and power drives out all the others and takes over.

"It used to be Elmwood Shopping Center, then that was put down by Regency Mall. Then the outlet malls came along, and now the internet is eating up everyone's market share."

Wick knows there's nothing he can do. He's tried calling the powers-that-be at the Journal Times, but doesn't really expect any satisfaction. A display shows before-and-after examples photos he's restored. You'd never know the original had been torn into half-a-dozen pieces. "We do better work than everyone else. With us, it's done right," he says.

But for how long?

Is there really a villain here? Just as Wick bought the adjoining Common Scents soap and fragrance store in 1987, and later added Pack 'n Ship to his Olde Tyme Photo business -- he runs them all simultaneously, by himself -- the Journal Times is also forced to become entrepreneurial in areas far removed from its core mission  (whether you see that mission as disseminating news or selling advertising).

Meanwhile, from different edges of Downtown, both continue scratching out a living. Realistically, Racine needs both to survive.


  1. Great Article Pete and Doug.
    Doug was one of the modern pioneers in Downtown..he was here to survive the great road tear outs. Doug was here when the porn shops were down here, and he's still here today as the Main St and 6th St business has become more upscale and specialized.
    I have noticed his store has a new cleaner and tidier feel, and it looks as though the facade has been fixed up too! Good to see Doug. Several of the "older" neighbors DT are retiring.. Peacock Boutique and the Clothing store on the West Side of the 400 block. So many new things coming in or shuffling around. New concepts of diaper service, "Green" resale shop, and the Soup place, and what's going in on the corner of 3rd? New restaurants on 6th which is fast becoming the place for dinner. Waves and Salute's getting more competitors..or are even more people thinking of DT as THE place to go for fun?

    Ask yourself Doug did u ever think our street would be this vibrant?? I don't know if your thriving or just surviving...but if you keep focusing your products upscale I think we all will benefit from that. Yes the times are tough..but the middle and upper class are still buying better stuff..just not quite as often. To all of my fellow DT biz's keep thinking were the best and keep focusing on the prize which a vibrant exciting place where people come from miles around!

    Ironically that Doug's site used to be called Port Gilbert and had Cheese and Sausages...I think DT Racine would do great with Cheese, sausage and Kringle shop! I have told numerous people to open this sort of store..even if it was only seasonal!!

  2. BTW Doug The Journal Times can't compete with cheese and sausages!

  3. Doug does remarkable work. He literally saved a cherished family picture for us that otherwise would have simply faded away. He took our old films and videos and put together a modern CD that will preserve our mother's pictorial legacy for generations to come. He's helped us with shipping problems, he stocks excellently crafted products of local artists, and his shop is just plain fun. So is he. People should know and appreciate that kind of service.

  4. I have had photo work done by Doug over the years and he always treated me well. I also have a number of the old fashioned pics of our family he took years ago -- there priceless.

    What's interesting I went to the Journal-Times to place a ad and never made it past the receptionist at the bottom of the steps.

    She asked me a dozen questions -- I just continued saying I wanted to place a advertisement. I told her I wanted an ad designed but she just "didn't get it"! I ended up walking out. I really couldn't believe it. Here I was wanting to spend a few hundred dollars and I came to a dead end.

    It was like when the hospital phone operator would ask personal questions when you called to talk to the doctors nurse.

    The Journal-Times is cutting their own throat. That's why their out selling their paper at cut rate prices at places like Farm & Fleet.

  5. Today, my bird died and I now have no use for the Journal Times. FML

  6. Pete, your article sets up an interesting contrast: both businesses have tried to be flexible in an ever-changing marketplace. Stringing together disparate services to keep afloat. Here's the main difference between the two: Common Sense has offered longstanding good service to valued customers over time. The Journal Times has too often ignored their customers in favor of their other, more valued relationship-the advertiser. Now needing new ways to generate revenue, they infringe on an existing business who used to be an advertiser too. Ironic.

  7. It's sad to see a once proud local newspaper fall to the level where they have to steal crumbs from small little businesses.

    Soon they'll be selling discount items in their lobby just to get someone to stop in.

    Doug has always been positive part of Downtown and this is how he gets treated.

    I guess only the big guys count at the Journal. Where's Robin Hood?

  8. Maybe if Mick B. wasn't allowed to be so offensive to people, then maybe they wouldn't be so turned off with the JT and I can definately say that I am turned off by his antics.

  9. "focusing your products upscale" read for the rich and white hate to say this but the more filled with bars Downtown Racine gets the less anyone is coming Downtown.

  10. Racine does not need any business to survive. be nice to have Doug in Racine but Racine does not die should he go away.
    The City of Racine as a political entity does need the yes men of the J-T.

  11. If someone else puts up an online newspaper will you write an article about "being attacked" and "having your market taken down"? Maybe the anti-Korean convenience store group can mass at the next city hall meeting and attack the JT.

    If this man does quality work for a good price he has nothing to worry about. Plus he just received free advertizing - no offense guys, but this is because the Racine Post publishers have an axe to grind.

  12. Cry me a river.....It's called competition....Big or small...You must adapt.

  13. If the JT would return Calls when a business wants to advertise they might not be in this mess. I can't tell you how many times I called or eMailed the JT to place an ad and never got a return call

  14. I think we should all support Racine owne businesses, however when in business you have to look for ways to expand for potential growth or for survival. The JT's is not a not for profit. You may or may not like the JT's, but that is not the issue here. They are in it to make money and have to find alternatives to exist.
    How many of you go to Walmart, Home Depot, Sams etc. Don't you realize that by going there you have put locally owned business out of business or there revenues have been dramaticaly reduced? Pete or dustin - I like to know - since you are so concerned about Doug, and don't get me wrong I fully support his business - do you shop at any of these big box stores? You are hypocrital to write this article if you do. Furthermore it is really classless to go after the competition. You guys are a disgrace with no integrity.

  15. You see that I have read this article here, and not the JT, for an obvious reason. Doug does, and has always done good work with a sense of craftsmanship and customer service. The JT is scrambling...And a lot of it because of villianous people like Mick B. "WTF" - hey, Mick B? That is the attitude that prevails there, that is why I read this source of news, and that is why our family supports downtown and it's businesses as much as we possibly can.

  16. concrete katie4/09/2010 8:55 AM

    Doug Wick is exactly what Racine needs more of, an independent and resourceful business owner. He has captured Racine in his camera and knows its richness FOR YEARS! When I put together the pieces of one of the original flying venetians for him he introduced me to the recreated Venetian Theatre....the 8th wonder of the world right here in Racine! Of course I had already met Fred Hermes one of Racine's fabulous independent artists he is quite colorful for a native. I can relate to what Doug is saying too here in the above article. I would say downtown lacks for people shopping during the day..that the business climate is not democratic. We all will argue why that is. I have my opinions, you have yours. Meanwhile Doug is bravely venting. It is very lonely trying to make a living during the day in the downtown without the big guy becoming the competitor. I can relate to that! Where is the real chamber of commerce?

  17. I'm amazed by people who feel that they have the sole right to something. I see nothing wrong with the JT selling othere services. It's called competition.
    It's could also be called evolution. They are seeking other avenues to make money. Only Democrats would find the idea of making money to be distastful or unfair.

  18. *:52 - What story are you regerring too? Ther is no "story" here. I'm sure if Pete and Dustin opened up a photo-restore store down the blok there woudl be no story. This is sour grapes by ex-JT employees crying.

  19. How many people does Doug employ?

  20. good question

  21. This started out as a bash on the "scam" within the JT about the $2 bill and quickly turned into something else. Should this have been two separate articles?

    I too started reading the Post as an alternative to the JT. However, as someone stated earlier, do you have an axe to grind? Against so many within Racine that bring jobs. Do what you should to report the news. Please do not sway the reader as which way to think.

    Until that is done, I guess I will go back to the JT. Unless anyone has a third option?!?

  22. The Journal -Times will do what ever they wish, so it doesn't matter what we say.

    I think the Journal running these stupid two dollar bill ads has cheapened the standards they once had.

    The Journal always protected the readership from scams.

    They always directed people in the right direction. Seems now they don't care if it's right or wrong they just do it.

    From what I've seen lately the Journal -Times is pretty desperate. That's sad to see a great local newspaper falling apart.

    Will they be offering a set of dishes with each new subscriptions next?

    What other small businesses will they hurt in the future?

    It's clear that they only care about one big business in Racine. The others are all be taken for granted. This to will bite them in the butt.

    Doug, we feel your pain. But those Journal people just don't care who they hurt these days.

  23. I agree that both of these situations seem to be desperate miss steps by the Journal-Times.

    I can see why Milwaukee J S has been making big inroads into the Racine market.

    The Journal-Times seems to be getting much smaller these days. Thinner and thinner.

    I would guess that's from biting the hands that feed them.

  24. I only hope that Doug Wick, Pete, Dustin and some of the other comentators never need an organ transplant. Obviously they feel that you should die rather than attempt to live via another avenue. Comments like "so their industry is dying - why are they entering mine" is supid.
    Exactly what I expect from this site.

  25. 6:18 pm Your comment is what we would all expect from a Journal-Times employee.

    Like libraries, newspapers are endangered. I suspect that you'll make it to retirement. But there isn't a bright future for a business that has to chase around looking for ways to pay the bills.

  26. Seeing the girl standing at Farm & Fleet trying to sell newspaper subscriptions is a pathetic sight.
    It's example of how badly the paper has been managed.

    However in the last few weeks we have noticed a change in the paper. It appears that your finding out that you don't walk on water.

  27. With the interenet making great strides of increasing readership, obviously this is hurting the newspaper industry. So the papers have two choices - one to fold or two to seek alternative business opportunites to exist.If you opt for number one - you are wishing unemployment for all the JT's staff. I guess I'd vote for two and hope that both businesses survive. Doug has been doing quality work for years so his reputation should keep him going into the future.

  28. FYI: MJS is actually in cahoots with the JT because they can't compete with the JT without lowering costs. They aren't making 'inroads' as suggested. The people who deliver the MJS are JT employed.

  29. 5:59 - You idiot, it's called outsourcing.It turns out to be a win/win for both the JT's and MJS - not cahoots