Local video digitizers take franchise director's chair

Local video digitizers take franchise director's chair

July 27th, 2011 by Carey O'Neil in Business Around the Region

Mike Morell transfers film at Flicko's.

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

Not even seven years after opening the first Flicko's Video Services franchise, Mike Morell wanted to expand across the South.

But when the company's franchisor told him he was looking to retire, Morell jumped on the even bigger opportunity to buy the franchising rights and run the whole show.

"He felt that we took a chance on him, so he gave us the first opportunity," Morell said. "The timing was definitely right for both of us."

After deciding to start their own business years ago, Morell and his wife, Kim, were thinking about opening a restaurant franchise. They instead made a successful gamble opening up Flicko's - a shop specializing in digitizing customer's old video formats.

Clearer images

There are eight Flicko's across the country, each bringing in around $100,000 of revenue annually. The stores collectively employ 19 to 26 people, depending on the season.

Morell said he was given a good deal on the business and is now pursuing a Southern strategy of expansion - build up a solid base across the region and then go after the rest of the nation.

He also is looking to increase the store's online presence. There are several services that digitize customer's old 8 mm film, slides, laser disks and other audio and video formats. Morell hopes Flicko's quality will pull that old media to his Fort Oglethorpe business.

Company founder Bill Bellis patented a conversion process that Morell said puts Flicko's quality well above competitors'. By spooling up old film on a projector with frame rate controls and a particularly bright bulb and running the film through the process, Flicko's videos can come out clearer than in other processes.

Family rescues its history

Store regular Anne Burton Avery said she believes in the process. The Ringgold, Ga.-area resident has brought in more than 300 projects since the store opened.

Avery was the sugarplum fairy in the Atlanta Ballet Company's first production of The Nutcracker and did professional ballet for years. She amassed mountains of old ballet video across several format eras that she converted, but some of the most meaningful projects she's worked on have been family gifts.

After digging out old Christmas tapes, Avery put together videos of her children opening presents and looking for Santa.

"They had not seen most of it," she said. "They were like, 'Mom, I can't believe you did this.'"

"Kinkos" of video

For Morell, those stories are the best parts of the business.

"The reward from what we do is just awesome," he said. "It's priceless."

Flicko's also shoots community events such as school plays and graduations, helps put together college sports recruitment videos, films weddings, and puts together memorial videos for funerals.

"We're kind of the Kinko's of video," he said. "If it's related to video, we do it."

Morell said there is constant demand for the types of video Flicko's shoots, helping carry the company through the recession.

Since its opening, Morell said the store has seen constant growth with a slight dip in 2007.

"Our demographics are so broad," he said. "On a good day I can have five or six projects going at once."

To keep that business coming in, Morell is constantly on the lookout for further changes in technology. He said the trend towards Blu-ray hasn't caused much of a stir, but he'll be ready to convert DVDs to whatever format is on the horizon.

"It's kind of tricky. You don't want to go too far ahead," he said.