By Carl Kotala

Lisa Fournier still remembers her first day as the new owner of Southern Photo.  “I walked in with braces and one of the customers took a look at me and said, ‘Where’s your husband?” Fournier recalled.  “I said, ‘He doesn’t work here.’ And he went, ‘Ah, you’ll never make it.’”

Twenty-two years later, Fournier and that customer still laugh about what he said that day.  Not only has Southern Photo become the largest full-service camera store in Brevard County, but Fournier was named the Florida Retail Federation’s 2012 Retailer of the Year.

This year, Southern Photo will celebrate its 50th year in business.  Fournier, 54, grew up in Anaheim, CA, and has a degree in Business Administration, with a minor in Computer Science.  She started out selling fiber optic equipment but, at the age of 32, decided to take her career in another direction.  “I was traveling a huge amount,” she said.  “I made a life choice at that point; I wanted to be more local.  I looked for a business through a business broker and found Southern Photo.”

She also found herself in a changing business world as the technology shifted from film to digital.  “I was really in the right place at the right time for that transition, when I first bought the business.  I was able to apply my talents, which are in outside sales,” she said.  “I developed an outside sales division and we called on law enforcement and configured systems to help them modernize their crime scene units.”

Those who enter her shop on NASA Boulevard in Melbourne will find a friendly, knowledgeable staff that has been trained by Fournier to develop a genuine connection with the shopper.  Customer service always comes first.

“That’s always been my philosophy that my dad taught me,” Fournier said.  “You don’t have to be smart to be in sales, he said, you just have to do what you say you’re going to do and listen to that customer and find out what they need and go help them.”