QUEENSBURY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Aviation Mall has lost some stores and gained some new ones in the last few years. The former BonTon and Sears spaces have closed, the latter turning into a Spirit Halloween and eventually a COVID-19 vaccine and testing center. Inside the mall, newer faces have included the DVD store Play It Again, and the discount store Olly’s Bargain Outlet. But one brand-new addition to the mall is less about selling a product, and more about selling an experience.
The Selfie Spot opened in late December at the Aviation Mall. Twelve photo booths line the sides of the mall’s former Jonathan Reid; but the business isn’t a traditional photo studio.
“I would call it a social media influencer’s dream,” said owner/operator TJ Stratton. “What do social media influencers like to do? Take pictures.”
And so, whether the person stepping through the door is an Instagram celebrity or a local teenager looking to add something flashy to their photos, the mission of The Selfie Spot becomes apparent. Customers can choose between different sets and backgrounds with themes. There’s the astronaut room, the “Let’s party!” room, the “Happy birthday” room, and more to choose from.
Stratton and his wife have opened two locations – one at Aviation, the other at Crossgates in Albany. Stratton sees the attraction to taking pictures, in an age where every phone has a camera and access to any number of places to send them.
TJ and his wife saw similar types of business elsewhere while traveling out-of-state, and realized they hadn’t seen anything similar in New York. TJ, who describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur,” has a background in the music industry that helped fund the venture. His wife works in interior design, and it was her added touch that shaped many of the themes into being, while taking notes from other businesses across the country that have tackled the “selfie photo studio” concept.
“It’s like there’s a whole bunch of breads, right? There’s Wonder Bread, Freihofer’s, Sara Lee. They’re all bread, just different companies,” Stratton said. “So that’s kind of like what she did, saying, ‘Here’s how I want to do it.'”
And in the first few weeks, doing it has been a success. A look at The Selfie Spot on Facebook or Instagram shows visitors singing into prop microphones, striking goofy poses, and enjoying the separate world that the business lets them capture. Stratton said he’s already had customers ask about birthday parties, wedding photos and professional photoshoots. He’s even heard interest from Siena College.
The majority of that business has come from the Crossgates store. Stratton says the start has been a little slower at the Aviation Mall, where the store is currently open Thursday-Sunday. He doesn’t see that as a long-term problem, though. The Queensbury mall has had more than its fair share of changing faces. All people need to do is get to know new ones like The Selfie Spot as they come.
“They’re not as hip to it yet, but there’s people coming.”
In the future, Stratton hopes to add more spots for more selfies across the northeast. He sees a future for The Selfie Spot in a lot of places, including Lake Champlain and Vermont. For now, the pink elephants, ball pits and bright colors are open in Albany and Queensbury for any burgeoning Instagram star-to-be.