LOS ANGELES –
At a time when the 1990s aesthetic is haut culture, Kacey Musgraves might have created a gold mine for Tom’s One-Hour Photo.
Tom Tuong, 60, opened the shop in 1991. There is no internet and he doesn’t accept credit cards. It was fairly busy in the days before digital photography, but now, there might be one customer coming through the doors each day.
On Monday, that customer was Grammy-winning country artist Musgraves, who stumbled upon the shop, essentially unchanged since it opened, while on tour in Los Angeles.
Musgraves’ sister, photographer Kelly Christine Sutton, wanted to get some film developed before leaving. She found Tom’s One-Hour Photo on Yelp! and visited the small shop in Koreatown on Monday.
“I felt like I was in a time capsule. … There’s something so nostalgic about the portraits he’s made,” Sutton told The Los Angeles Times.
She brought back Musgraves, who ended up doing an impromptu photo shoot in front of some of the 30 different available canvas backdrops Tuong painted years ago.
Musgraves wanted to do something more than just post a photo on social media to help the struggling small business.
“We were raised in a small town, small-business household where ends sometimes were barely met. I think that’s why I have a soft spot for the dreamer … the underdog,” Musgraves told The Los Angeles Times in an email. “I worked (in my parents’ shop) during my high school years answering phones, making copies, and rolling my eyes. I remember his own frustration and worry when Walmart came to town and home printers became a trend. Because who needs to order business cards or invitations anymore when you can just print your own?”
“It’s one of those rare mom-&-pop gems that has lasted thru trends coming and going and weirdly has come back around again without even realizing it,” Musgraves wrote to her more than 1.6 million followers. “Let’s keep this charming business afloat!”
Musgraves warned Tuong business might pick up, and it has.
“She said ‘a lot of people will be calling you,’ and she was right,” Tuong told The Times.
The phone doesn’t stop ringing as a steady line of customers have filled the shop. Family have come by to help Tuong, who typically is the lone employee.
Tuong’s wife, Lisa Le, could not recall the last time it was so busy.
“I hope this isn’t a fleeting success. I hope it’s something sustainable,” Sutton told the Times.
Tuong appreciated the attention.
“Ten years ago, it was a little slow, and now Kacey came in and made me busy again,” Tuong told KABC. “Now I want to see her and say thank you again.”
© 2019 Cox Media Group.