The school photography industry is filled with lifelong executives with amazing stories. The SPOA newsletter takes a look at some industry executives, starting with Allan Defazio, of School Pictures Inc. and Lifetouch.
Allan Defazio didn’t intend to spend a lifetime in the school portrait industry. His career started in the 1960s with animals, studying animal husbandry with the goal of becoming a game warden. After that didn’t pan out, he took a sales position with Allied Mills, a regional feed company.
After a few years, his father-in-law introduced Defazio to his brother, Tom Greenwell, who was president of School Pictures Incorporated, in Webster, N.Y. After a dinner meeting in Baltimore, DeFazio left the feed company for a sales position with School Pictures, based on the east coast.
“A territory opened up in New York State, where I'm from, but three people in that territory of the mid-to-lower Hudson area failed before this,” he recalled. “I labored over it for four days and decided to take the new challenge and did moved up. At that time, everything was spec where you send all packages home to parents, and then you have to go back, pick them up, about four weeks later. We ended up with a lot of pictures unsold. We would have to take them back and I would strip the frames out of them. I had to travel from Albany to Webster, New York, by Rochester just to try to get credits for the cardboard frames.”
Defazio determined selling on specs, as well as poorly structured business practices, contributed to the lack of success in the area. He moved to Albany, where he has lived since 1970. After a divorce, he met his current wife, Debbie, at a sales meeting in Marco Island. The two have been married for 35 years.
“I met her there and the rest is history,” he said. “She eventually moved to this area and handled our seniors and proms. We evolved that business and I set up a studio for her independent private studio out of my office building in Glenmont, N.Y.
“We were worked real hard and built a strong business by having good business practices,” he added. “It’s important to me to have advanced planning and careful preparation, which played into success for us. We grew our business well and I stayed with School Pictures Incorporated as an independent dealer for about 27 years.”
Defazio sold to Lifetouch in 1994 and retired from the company in 2013. The school photography business is in the genes, however, as Defazio’s son, Jason, worked with him at School Pictures Incorporated and later Lifetouch, before striking out on his own.
Looking back, Defazio said the school portrait industry taught him a “new meaning of family with School Pictures Incorporated.” He said the territory managers — called independent dealers — worked together. “We felt part of the plant. We felt part of each other. We had a true love for each other; we would help each other out whichever way we can.” The dealers had a healthy competition to try to outdo each other, in terms of creativity and ingenuity, he added.
Since his retirement in 2013, Defazio has taken up golf and enjoys seeing his grandchildren. He has also maintained his connection to nature. “I love the Rocky Mountains and have hunted in Idaho, Montana and, not too much, in Wyoming. I am planning to go hunting this year in New Mexico.” He also enjoys trap shooting and other target shooting.