Keeping True to Local Roots

Posted by Barry Benton on Feb 1, 2008 9:10:00 AM

Issue Date: February 1, 2008, Posted On: 2/1/2008

Legendary portraiture studio moves north, strives to maintain clientele
By Tierney Kaufman

By Tierney Kaufman
Society Editor

Image of barry benton, ceo of gittings - photo by allison slomowitz

Staff photos: Allison Slomowitz
Barry Benton, CEO of Gittings-Dallas

The small four-room portraiture studio on Lovers Lane is covered in images of Texas business leaders, celebrities, and local residents. President George W. Bush, actor John Wayne, football legend Roger Staubach, and Neiman Marcus executives are among the many faces bearing the Gittings logo.

“Everyone’s grown up knowing about Gittings,” Highland Park resident Debbie Snell said. “It’s like saying Kleenex in Dallas.”

After 20 years on Lovers Lane and countless clients, Texas’ largest fine portraiture company, Gittings, is moving to Village on the Green in North Dallas. The new location will allow for clientele from North Dallas and Collin County to grow, while still maintaining relationships with the Park Cities, Preston Hollow, and downtown businesses.

“Our client base has grown northward,” said Barry Benton, CEO and family portrait specialist for Gittings. “We are not too far from the Park Cities, but closer to Collin County.”

Benton, who previously owned a portraiture studio in Plano, became CEO of Gittings-Dallas 18 months ago. He quickly conducted careful research of the Gittings market through telephone surveys with clients and found that a move north would increase clientele with little loss.

Image of gittings portraiture studio - photo by allison slomowitz
Image of gittings portraiture studio - photo by allison slomowitz

Gittings portraiture studio on Lovers Lane

“We have such a long, rich history with the Park Cities area that we didn’t want to alienate [our loyal customers],” Benton said. “But an overwhelming majority of clients said they would follow.”

He attributes this loyalty to a proven record of high-quality products and client-oriented employees. Gittings’ history with local businesses and organizations, such as the Dallas City Council and Dallas Symphony Orchestra, shows a deep involvement with the community.

Snell, who used Gittings when she chaired the Crystal Charity Ball and the Junior League Ball, thinks the move is a great idea for the company to help expand clientele while remaining a staple in the Park Cities community.

“That’s still a neighborhood photographer,” Snell said about the 10 minute drive north. “I think it’s brilliant to pull in North Dallas and still have the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. They’re very smart the way they do business, so community oriented.”

Highland Park resident Melinda Russ will continue to use Gittings to capture family moments. As a member of the Birthday Club of Gittings, a club that allows parents to purchase annual portraits of their children that are placed in leather-bound books, Russ said she will follow the studio wherever it moves.

“It’s closer to me if [Gittings] were on Lovers, but I don’t mind going out of the Park Cities,” Russ said. “I’m loyal to them,” citing that the studio makes it easy for clients because the company will visit the clients’ homes for three of the four consultations.

Benton agreed, saying it’s the studio’s customer service and easy access that keeps customers happy. He also said if a portrait fades over time, Gittings can update it at the archive retention center in Houston.

Image of dallas cowboys quarterback roger staubach Image of sophia loren

Gittings portraits of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach and actress Sophia Loren

“There are things we do that make us different from other studios,” he said. “The secret’s in the sauce.”

Gittings’ rich history began 80 years ago in 1928 when founder Paul Linwood Gittings Sr. worked for Bachrach Portrait Studios as the company was opening studios in Houston and Dallas. Gittings quickly purchased these studios from Bachrach and renamed them, eventually maintaining a total of five studios.

The local Gittings moved across Dallas from the Stoneleigh Hotel Penthouse in the 1930s to Neiman Marcus downtown in the 1960s and six other locations before ending up on Lovers Lane in 1988.

For its 80th anniversary, Gittings will continue the legacy of “capturing cherishing moments” further north.

“[Gittings] made it acc­ep­table to do [fine art] with a family portrait,” Benton said. “[He focused on] the everyday family that appreciates a high quality portraiture. I’m going to continue that.”

E-mail tierney.kaufman@peoplenewspapers.com