Chuck Wolf was born in New York City and grew up in a small town in Oklahoma. “His father, a lawyer-turned-lingerie plant manager, died when Wolf was 14, leaving the young boy to develop an early appreciation for work.”1
“While he never held an interest in photography as a child, he felt committed to preserving memories. That commitment followed him through his college years at The University of Oklahoma where he earned his bachelors in business administration. Soon after, he joined the Army Reserves where he developed his personal strict business discipline.”2
“But what Wolf really honed to a science was his instinct for sales and marketing, which he displayed in Washington, D.C., where his mother soon moved the family to be closer to relatives. Taking a job in one of the Ritz Camera stores owned by his uncle, Ed Ritz, Wolf soon outdistanced the more experienced sales force. He quickly rose through the ranks of the photographic-supply company…
This experience taught Wolf the power of advertising, something Uncle Ed did with zeal.
In 1974, Wolf, then a part of Ritz senior management, traded in his 25-percent stock in the company for nine Star Photo stores in Atlanta and Charlotte, NC, which his uncle also owned.”1
He soon closed all but one store in Atlanta, as the others were underperforming miserably. By 1987, Wolf had grown to 56 stores, all in the Southeast.
By 1990, with aggressive and smart marketing campaigns, a strong and dedicated management team typically hired from within, carefully selected prime real estate locations, and some beneficial strategic acquisitions of smaller camera chains, Wolf had grown the company to 125 stores with $100 million in annual sales and over 1000 employees.
“In 1992, Wolf ventured outside the Southeast by acquiring stores in the Chicago and Dallas markets… Branching out to the West Coast, Wolf acquired the 25-store Photo-Drive-Up chain in San Jose, California, in November 1995. The next substantial growth came in 1996 when they acquired 60 CPI/Fox Photo stores in 15 markets, seven Wentling’s Camera stores in Concord California, and opened more than 30 additional locations in existing markets.
In 1997, Wolf opened its 300th store and expanded for the first time in Austin and Houston, Texas, and Sarasota, Florida.”3
In 1998, Wolf acquired the 449 Fox Photo Stores from Eastman Kodak, making Wolf Camera the second largest specialty retail camera chain in the country next to Wolf’s Uncle’s Ritz Camera, which was then led by his first cousin, David Ritz. The acquisition proved to be more of an undertaking than anticipated and Wolf would ultimately sell to Ritz Camera in 2001 and remain on staff as Vice Chairman.
In 2004, Wolf teamed up with former Wolf Camera advertising director and senior manager of national marketing and advertising for Home Depot’s Expo Design Centers, Jerry Carbone, to form Wolfbone Marketing, a company specializing in guerrilla marketing for Atlanta’s retail business market. Later, changing its name to WCG Ad Logic, Wolf and Carbone opened with the accounts of Ritz Camera and Boater’s World Marine Centers. They have since developed and launched television, radio and print advertising campaigns for Kauffman Tire, PGA Tour Superstores, and many more.
Some of Chuck’s accolades include being twice named “Retailer of the Year” by Photographic Trade News magazine, “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Business Atlanta magazine, and “Marketer of the Year” by the Atlanta Chapter of the American Marketing Association. He has also been honored as a member of the Georgia State University Business Hall of Fame, and Wolf Camera was a past recipient of the worldwide “Best Of The Best Award” from Photo Marketing.
Wolf watched woefully as his cousin’s and uncle’s business failed to emerge from bankruptcy. Though as the Ritz Camera liquidated, closing most all of the Atlanta market Wolf Camera locations, he began to see an opportunity for a new concept that would better serve his former clientele by providing them with an upscale, hands-on alternative to print making.
In early 2013, he then teamed up with two former Wolf Camera associates, Chuck Strassburger, Senior Vice President of Logistics, and his son, Alex Wolf, Senior Vice President of Real Estate. Strassburger’s experience with Wolf Camera, causelink.com, Best Buy, and Barnes & Noble, coupled with Alex Wolf’s experience with Wolf Camera, Decision Digital IT Consulting & Services, and Mooncycle IT Consulting, were a perfect match to better hone the concept. Recognizing the futility of trying to compete with online sales of photographic equipment, Wolf agreed to abandon from the concept the sale of cameras and hard goods and focus on the service to provide to a clientele perhaps struggling to keep up with technology.
And so was born Chuck Wolf’s Photo Design Bar, offering its clientele a one-on-one experience with a photo design specialist, a computer savvy technician fluent in Adobe Creative Suite and a number of other photo editing software suites. These specialists will upload, import, scan, enhance, edit and prepare for production their clientele’s photos. Then the clientele can choose from dozens of amazing products, such as gallery wrapped canvas prints, metallic prints, photobooks, calendars, and much more. Photography classes are offered to the customer that wants to take a better picture with their digital camera or smartphone. Computer classes are also offered to learn how to use iPhoto and Photoshop and other related applications.
1 “Chuck Wolf: Ahead of his Time” from Business Atlanta written by Rob Levin 1990
2 “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” from Atlanta City Mag written by Robert J. Nebel 1999
3 “Wolf Camera’s Quarter Centruy of Growth” from Photo Industry Reporter
And so, finally, the name you’ve trusted for years with your memories, Chuck Wolf, is back in the photographic industry!