SHERIDAN — Even in their earliest days together, Neil and Hana Hoversten knew they would end up in a place like Sheridan. They always wanted to live in a great community with fantastic schools — it just made sense to build their life and business here.
While they plan to continue building their life in Sheridan, the Hoverstens’ time with Photo Imaging Center is coming to a close. The couple has transferred ownership of the business in Sheridan and Gillette to Ryan and Darla Franklin, the current owners of the Sheridan Electronics/RadioShack store in Sheridan.
But, the Photo Imaging Center’s story begins more than 800 miles away in Oregon. Neil Hoversten, who was working as a superintendent for a paper mill, received a phone call from a friend in Alaska.
His friend was beginning a new venture — a one-hour photo business — and he wanted Hoversten to join. Hoversten had always wanted to move to Alaska, so he left his high-paying job at the paper mill and headed to Anchorage.
Hoversten learned how to develop photos in Anchorage and Juneau photo labs. But his and his wife’s time in Alaska was short. In 1983, the Hoverstens took their knowledge and passion of photography back to the lower 48.
“I basically picked a place I wanted to live with a lifestyle I really liked and I found a way to make a living,” Hoversten said.
In the location of an old gas station, the Hoverstens opened “One-Hour Photo Finish” — Sheridan’s first and only one-hour photo shop at the time. Their business expanded and within three years, they built a camera shop onto their Sheridan store and opened up a new store in Gillette.
The next wave of photo technology presented some early challenges for the Hoverstens. With the emergence of efficient digital cameras in the early 2000s, their business went from dealing with film to digital files. While that changed some dynamics of their business, the core of Photo Imaging Center has always been the photo lab.
“We used to make a lot more prints,” Hoversten said. “We used to make about 4,000 small prints a day — 4-by-6 — that would just end up in the back of somebody’s closet,” Hoversten said. “Today, we make fewer prints but they are prints that people are going to be able to display. We are putting (prints) on metal, we are putting them on canvas, we are putting them on metallic paper … we are doing a lot of larger prints because the image quality supports that.”
Hoversten said trends in technology have helped them achieve feats in photography in ways they never thought possible. Now they can make quality digital edits with a few clicks of a mouse through programs like Photoshop.
“In many ways, (making larger prints) is much more fun,” Hoversten said. “It’s not just a production kind of thing. You put your heart into it.”
With the emergence of quality cellphone pictures, Hoversten said the capabilities for the business are endless. He believes people printing out their favorite photos from their phone will continue to be a large part of the business’ success.
In the coming weeks, the Photo Imaging Center will temporarily move their services to operate as a part of Sheridan Electronics. This summer, Sheridan Electronics will remodel the building currently occupied by Photo Imaging Center and then move in.
The Hoverstens plan to spend time hiking and fishing in the Bighorns and with their family.