In April of this year, I made my first trek (ok, let’s be honest, pilgrimage) to Photo-Me, USA in Grand Prairie, Texas. I had spoken to Gary Gulley on the phone over the past 3 years, but it was a pleasure to finally meet him in person and put a face to the voice. (Now knowing what his face looks like, I see it occasionally in photostrip form from time to time — most recently in a local St. Louis Post Dispatch article announcing the Photobooth Convention) All the folks I met at the Grand Prairie office (Gary, Tom, Matthew, Bambi, Amber, Linda, Yuri, Hugo, Dawn, Ed) were incredibly nice, and each made me feel right at home. I was treated to a tour of the plant, the highlight of which is their wall of retired photobooths (literally stacked 3-high, reaching up nearly 20 feet). They also have a wealth of articles and photobooth art that have been sent to them over the years. They have a collection of photobooth picture calendars the Rainbo Club in Chicago produces every year, as well as many other cool photobooth relics. They also let me see their collection of original photobooth patent applications from an array of different countries. I am willing to admit the whole thing was somewhat of a religious experience (lunch, by the way, was memorable as well — Al’s Burger joint just west of Dallas — a big-ass burger on what else but Texas toast?).
I then made a return visit to Photo-Me earlier this month while I was in town for a friend’s wedding. Once again, it was great to see everyone, though I didn’t have as much time to make the rounds. The place was pretty busy, lots of booths being readied for shipment, and lots of phones ringing. I got to wander the warehouse again and soak in the sheer enormity of their photobooth collection. Very cool. Lunch this time was equally delicious — a fine little Mexican restaurant whose name slips me at the moment. If you are looking for good Mexican grub in Grand Prairie, give Gary a call. Tom took some time to show me some of the original blueprints for the first Photo-Me machines (models 10 and 11, I believe). He has a lot of photobooth history in his head, and there is a lot of history to be had. Eventually, we need to beef up a section on Photobooth.net dedicated to photobooth history. Given the time it took me to post this little bit about my Photo-Me visit, however, makes me think it might be a while before we have a formidable history section. Thanks Gary, and the rest of the fine folks at Photo-Me.