GLEN ELLYN – Al Lewek is the definition of a self-made man.
The owner of Lewek Photography and Frame Studio, 507 Pennsylvania Ave., is celebrating his 35th year in business and refers to his Glen Ellyn storefront as a second home.
“The only thing I’m missing in the back is a cot,” he said.
Lewek’s love of photography was established decades ago, when the Wheaton-Carol Stream native took a high school job in the photo department at Montgomery Ward of Yorktown Center.
That position led to Lewek being hired as a clerk at Yorktown Camera in 1967. It was there, he said, that he received his industry training, learning about business, sales, customer service, photo equipment, camera accessories and darkroom work.
“I just pretty much taught myself based on what I saw and what I liked,” Lewek said.
He devoured books and magazines about photography and shot his first professional job in 1969.
Lewek opened his original studio five years later on Westmont Avenue in Lombard, before relocating to downtown Glen Ellyn four years after that, late in 1978. He’s been there ever since.
His studio has always been a one-man operation, with the exception of his wife’s help early on and a business assistant he employed for 13 years in the middle of his career.
Most of his customers are referrals, he said, and residents of the Wheaton-Glen Ellyn area.
“The community’s been fabulous,” he said. “They appreciate this type of service and product.”
Lewek, a Lombard resident, has been a member of the Glen Ellyn Chamber of Commerce since opening his studio three and a half decades ago. He is also a 25-year member of the Rotary Club of Glen Ellyn and has previously served as president of both organizations.
“Al is one of those lovely, giving guys,” said chamber co-executive director Georgia Koch.
Lewek offers family and business portraits, digital printing and retouching, event photography, vintage restoration, passport pictures and framing.
He no longer works weddings, although he estimates he’s photographed close to 3,000 throughout his career, nor does he take children’s portraits.
Lewek said he’s seen the industry change. With the shifting emphasis on digital images, people rarely open photo and framing studios today.
“It’s important to balance the new with the old,” said Alliance of Downtown Glen Ellyn Executive Director Carol White. “I think that’s what Al does for us.”
Despite a decline in business during the recession, Lewek said demand has grown in recent years.
“It’s been a nice ride so far,” he said.
He plans to keep up the business for another five or 10 years, before selling or closing it to retire.
“I’d like to hit the 40 years mark,” he said, “just to say I did it.”
Who: Lewek Photography and Frame Studio
What: 35th business anniversary
Where: 507 Pennsylvania Ave.
Contact: 630-858-7020, firstname.lastname@example.org