Shooting Stars Develop Into Celebrity Clientele : Entrepreneurship: A photo-processing and printing lab in Irvine is wooing big names with the promise of extreme confidentiality.


A slightly warped fantasy:

You’re in the checkout line, looking over the razor-blades-and-gum displays, when your eye drifts to the tabloid rack and you see a Page 1 photo of Alistair Cooke wearing a Beavis and Butthead Fan Club T-shirt.

Well, you think, another illusion shattered. Some rogue photo lab guy must have collected a nice check for smuggling that one out.

Mitchell Goldstone is trying to make sure none of that happens, at least not to his clients.


Goldstone, 31, is the co-owner, with Carl Berman, of 30 Minute Photos Etc., an Irvine photo-processing and printing lab that is making a particular effort to woo celebrities with the promise of an extraordinary degree of confidentiality: Each of the lab’s employees must sign a one-page non-disclosure agreement; prints coming out of the dryer are shielded from customers’ eyes by a cardboard screen, and all reject prints are shredded before being chucked into the dumpster.

The campaign has apparently paid off. Goldstone said that his shop has between 80 and 100 regular Southern California celebrity clients--"a lot of very well known personalities"--primarily from the fields of film, television and sports.

Goldstone won’t name any of the familiar faces that emerge from the processing soup in his lab, but there are a few possible indicators on the lab wall: photos of singers Dionne Warwicke and Diana Ross, DJ Rick Dees and perennial rocker Jerry Garcia.

Although some of the celebs are local, the majority come from the Los Angeles area and often send their personal film to the lab in special mailing envelopes that Goldstone provides.

It was those envelopes, he said, that first opened his eyes to the possibility of attracting celebrity clients. After the lab opened in 1990, Goldstone said he was approached by a woman who wanted to make an enlargement of a photo of her son, who had recently died as a result of AIDS. The woman was saddened that so few photos of her son were available, because, said Goldstone, he had been uncomfortable taking photos of himself and his gay friends to a photo lab for fear they would not be confidential.

“I saw a marketing opportunity for us,” said Goldstone, “and we began to advertise in gay and lesbian publications.”

Goldstone also provided photo mailing envelopes along with the ads, promising full confidentiality. The film began to roll in.

So did referrals. Soon a handful of well-known names and faces began to use Goldstone’s mailers. And, responding, Goldstone and Berman began stuffing them under windshield wiper blades on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. They also sent out 300 mailers to talent agents and film studios throughout Hollywood, soliciting business.


Today, he said, it isn’t unusual to see well-known faces walk through the door of the lab, which is tucked inconspicuously into a small shopping plaza in a business park area off Jamboree Road. Also, Goldstone said, the occasional limousine will draw up outside, the driver will drop off “just a huge order” and will remain until the prints come out of the dryer.

30 Minute Photos Etc. is not the only lab that handles celebrity clients, but it may be the one that is most conspicuous about its secrecy precautions. The employees do see the finished prints, Goldstone said, but they have, over time, become less and less impressed.

“You see some very cool people in situations that you wouldn’t normally see them in,” Goldstone said.