Local portrait studios closed by parent firm

PictureMe Portrait Studios at Wal-Mart and Sears Portrait Studio in Fort Dodge have both closed for business, according to Emily Jensen, Sears Portrait Studio manager.

Parent company CPI Corp. closed all of its businesses nationwide Thursday, two days before its reprieve from its lenders ended. CPI failed to meet its loan obligations.

“They closed all the CPI-owned portrait studios, and that’s nationwide,” Jensen said Thursday. “We have two CPI studios in Fort Dodge, and that’s the Wal-Mart portrait studio and the Sears Portrait Studio.”

She added, “The company I work for, CPI Corp., has had a net loss of $20 million in the past three years and they couldn’t sustain the company any longer.”

Jensen said the closure was not expected.

“We knew they were going to change, they were going to adapt, and we literally came into work this morning and were totally blindsided,” she said. “There was a note from corporate headquarters that said, ‘Do not clock in, your studio has been closed.’ And it asked us to refer to a letter in our email that said you’re no longer employed.”

The corporate website, www.cpicorp.com, posted this notice:

“After many years of providing family portrait photography, we are sad to announce that all of our U.S. portrait studios are now closed. We appreciate your patronage and allowing us to capture your precious memories.”

Jensen was not allowed to contact customers. Instead, a form email apologizing for the inconvenience was sent out to patrons attributed to Jim Abel, PictureMe Portrait Studios president and chief executive officer.

Jensen already has an idea of what she’ll do next.

“I’m going to spend a little more time with my kids,” she said.

“There is going to be people in the market for quality inexpensive photography and we’re just not going to have that in our area anymore,” she said. “The only other option is a private studio in the Fort Dodge area. Maybe I’ll fill that need.”