His customers represent some of the most established families in Calhoun-Gordon County and he relies on local providers for his business needs and supplies. He partnered with professional makeup artist Hanna Dean, also a native of Calhoun with family ties in the local business environment, as they opened the Baxter-Dean studio at 109 South Wall Street, and he supports hometown spending as a Fast Lane Sponsor of the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce’s Keep It In The County initiative. In short, he put his money where his mouth is when he established his business in Gordon County, and as he reaps the rewards of that loyalty, he encourages other businesses to do the same.
“One of the first things I did as a new business operator was to join the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce and I signed up to support Keep It In The County as soon as I had an opportunity to do so, “ explained Baxter. “If ever there was a time for a local business owner to rely on the Chamber and its efforts to help local businesses grow, this is it. The Chamber helped me plan and promote my launch events, assisted me in key marketing decisions and stood behind me when I put my plans in action. They showed up every time I needed them, and we all know that showing up is half the battle.”
Baxter’s shoots are almost always done outdoors, as he resists the “studio look” he considers stale, but after operating from his home office for months, he realized that his booming business was quickly outgrowing him and he needed a full-service studio. He had one location in mind: downtown Calhoun. Determined to find a store-front on Wall Street, he waited until the ideal opportunity presented itself and when the time was right, he jumped.
With the location secured, Baxter attacked the renovation and decoration of the venue with a vengeance, almost miraculously transforming it from a hum-drum shop to a show-stopping example of the impact that decorating flair, artistic talent and plain, old-fashioned hard work can have on a store’s curb appeal. Once again, Baxter demonstrated his local loyalties by hiring Calhoun businesses and laborers to assist in the process, and when the renovation project was complete, he used a local caterer, florist and other service professionals to help him organize the Baxter-Dean studio Open House, which drew a record crowd.
“I am thrilled at the response we have received, but to be honest, I am not surprised,” he said. “That is not a boast; it is a declaration of my appreciation. In my experience, people respond to quality work and personal service and I am absolutely humbled that so many are allowing me to do the work I love. Photography is a unique field: every time I pick up that camera, I get the chance to capture personality and create memories. Those photographs become tangible documentation of very abstract, emotional experiences,” explains Baxter.
“As a parent, I know how it feels to see a photo of my children and lose my breath. As a husband, I know the experience of watching my bride float up the aisle. As a son, I know the pride and gratitude I feel when I see my parents and grandparents smiling back at me from their youth. Photography documents these experiences in a way that is permanent and profound,” he continued. “There are not many professions that give you those opportunities. How could I not be grateful?”
Baxter repeats that spirit of gratitude and community support by regularly donating his services for Gordon County agencies and non-profit fundraisers. He provided a full day of free photography for the Kiwanis Club of Calhoun as they presented their “Milk and Cookies with Santa” event in 2010 and will do so again this holiday season. Additionally, he has donated complimentary photo shoots to be used as raffle prizes for events including Dodge for a Cause, the Sequoyah Ball, Relay for Life and the March of Dimes. He devotes the same level of commitment to local giving as he does local spending.
While Baxter maintains a rigorous shooting schedule, the majority of his sessions are completed outside normal business hours, so flexibility is very important to him. Rather than lock himself into a “nine to five” schedule, he observes a casual, open door policy and invites the public to drop in when the doors are open or call to schedule a formal appointment. The studio boasts a very comfortable seating area and a huge farm table where he and his clients can sit down and spread out as they plan their photo session and afterwards, consider their shot choices and printing options. Rather than pressure clients to make quick decisions, his service includes the provision of a fully edited compact disc containing all their session shots, so they can make careful choices from the privacy of their home or even arrange for off-site printing on their own. He provides a full range of print options and specializes in the custom canvases and banners that have become his signature items.
“I have one mission for Andy Baxter Photography and Baxter-Dean Studio, “concluded Baxter. “I want to do the best work I can do for the best people I know and I want to do as much of it as I can right here in Gordon County.”