Foto Shop

You don’t have to shake it, but the Polaroid picture is back! Sort of.

Taking pictures and sharing pictures dominates modern online life. Even so, a new company is adopting an old name to entice people with the promise of bringing photos back into the real world.

It seems almost counterintuitive to return to ink on paper so long after the digital revolution has swept through our lives. Facebook alone sees more than 350 million photos uploaded every single day, and the behemoth social network smartly swallowed up Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, whose users upload an additional 60 million photos daily.

But as the memories we capture on our smartphones and share via dozens of apps stream by faster and faster, there’s definitely something to be said for stopping to savor those special shots.

That’s where the Polaroid Fotobar comes in.

The retail chain launched last year, after adopting the name of a camera manufacturer whose name was synonymous with instant picture printing. And while Polaroid cameras are no more, the Fotobar concept aims to capitalize on the now universal love of taking pictures.

“Everyone’s a photographer, from 10-year-old kids to my mom, who’s 77,” founder Warren Struhl told Bloomberg TV. “People really do want to physicalize their best pictures… liberate them,
make them something really special for your wall, for your desk, for your shelf.”


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The retail chain launched last year, after adopting the name of a camera manufacturer whose name was synonymous with instant picture printing.

And the Fotobar is aiming at a market beyond the clunky kiosk at the drugstore. “We don’t do 4x6s,” Struhl says. “We make Polaroids for a dollar, you can buy something on beautiful bamboo for $500, and [we have] everything in between.”

The flagship Polaroid Fotobar store opened in April at the Linq in Las Vegas, a bright, colorful space that invites you to both take pictures (with giant real life Polaroid photo frames) and to bring pictures to transform into keepsakes. The store shows off dozens of ways to show off your photos, from flipbooks to shadowboxes, magnets, even wall-size prints,

“Some of the products you walk out with immediately, instant gratification, just what Polaroid was all about,” Struhl says. “Or sometimes we ship it to you from our factory in a few days.”

And given how much Hawai‘i residents love Vegas, it wasn’t long before the Fotobar was discovered by locals.

“This place is great! You can take pictures from your camera, cell phone, Facebook, wherever, and print them as a Polaroid,” writes Honolulu artist and Yelp Elite member Ariana M. “The pictures don’t print on a thin piece of photo paper either, they print on card stock. This store also sells a variety of frames and picture holders.”

She adds: “I thought these made great gifts for my friends who were in Vegas with me, so I printed some for them and bought frames to go with it too. Great souvenir!”

Of course, the company hopes to have Polaroid Fotobar locations across the country. Its Las Vegas store opened following the success of its first four locations in the Florida resort cities of Orlando, Miami, Boca Raton and Delray Beach. Given Hawai’i’s natural photogenic qualities, it seems inevitable that we’ll see one in the islands soon.

“We currently have five corporately owned stores and we are opening seven more in California before the end of 2014,” says Dan Lier, the company’s head of franchise development. “We believe there will be a Fotobar in Hawai’i. I guess the real question is, who will be the one to bring it to the Aloha State?”

To see some of the creations the Polaroid Fotobar makes possible, check them out on Twitter at @fotobar or on Instagram at @polaroid-fotobar. For all the details, including the robust catalog of photo products, visit

Photos courtesy Polaroid Fotobar

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