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1st Polaroid-branded Photo Store Opens In Fla.

By MATT SEDENSKY

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. (AP) â¿¿ The first in a chain of Polaroid-branded photo shops opened here Friday, with its backers hoping to reinvigorate the digital world's interest in printed images by capitalizing on an iconic name.

Polaroid Fotobar aims to tap into unprecedented interest in photography with its inaugural 2,000-square-foot store. The trick will be to coax consumers who snap pictures on cellphones and other devices to give their memories new life on paper.

"Maybe it's on a smartphone, maybe it's on Instagram, maybe it's on Facebook," said Warren Struhl, the founder and CEO of Fotobar. "But digital is not permanent. Physical is permanent."

In the glistening new store, customers can pay a visit to the bar where "fototenders" will assist in wireless uploads of photos. From there, a visitor can purchase prints made on-site, or order products sporting their images on canvas, metal, bamboo and other materials.

The cheapest item is a $1 print replicating a traditional Polaroid, though the purchase requires a minimum of six. The priciest product is a 7-foot-by-4-foot, 150-pound slab of acrylic with a customer's image on it, running $2,500. All of the prints made on-site take the form of the original Polaroid, in varying sizes, with its familiar white border. It is thicker, at 1.2 millimeters, and sturdier, but is instantly recognizable.

Struhl says he has heard time and again that photography's transition to digital has brought "a pain point" for people, who feel a sense of guilt that their images may reside on a hard drive but not in a frame.

"It makes them sad," he contends. "Most people are afraid they're going to lose that favorite picture on top of the fact that they wish it was up on a shelf."

Whether that is true, and whether it drives people into Struhl's stores will determine the fate of the Fotobar. But even some with deep nostalgia for the Polaroid brand wonder how the business will fare in a digital world.

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