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The Great Game of Business   Women's Business Enterprise   Corporate Profiles

Firehouse History


Historic Firehouse PhotoThe history of Firehouse begins long before we were a commercial photo lab. We take our name from our original building which was an active fire station for 75 years.

What became Indianapolis Fire Station 11 was actually Fire Station 15 when it opened in 1896. Station 15 relocated and Station 11 moved into the building in 1901. They remained there for 70 years. Horses became steam engines. Steam engines became diesel engines. The sounds of street cars and hooves across brick faded into rubber on asphalt. Seeking more modern facilities, Station 11 relocated in 1971. The station, property and surrounding buildings were purchased by the Abels. Fred and Peggy Abel reported that there was still hay in the second-story loft when they took ownership. Fred had worked in the family business, W.H. Bass Photo, for over 20 years as a commercial photographer. He was ready for a new challenge and had big plans for the old station.


Historic Firehouse PhotoFirehouse 1971 and 1985 logosThe Abels restored Station 11 and converted it to The Firehouse Colorlab. Firehouse catered to the consumer and commercial photography markets offering a wide range of services. As Fred was previously the Official Photographer of the Indianapolis 500, it wasn't long before Firehouse became the Official Photo Lab of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Our reputation as the premier commercial photo lab in Indiana started to grow. Fred managed the grounds and continued to refurbish surrounding buildings on the block. Peggy ran the business and shepherded it through its first 18 years.

In the late 80's, the photo lab industry was shifting. The consumer market was moving away from our specialized services and the commercial market demanded MORE specialization. Firehouse was at a cross-roads and needed to evolve.

Firehouse 1990 and 1994 logosPhotoshop floppiesThe evolution began in 1989 when the Abels sold the business to brothers Tim and Terry Corman. Firehouse retained what consumer business it could and aggressively targeted commercial clients. And the Cormans purchased their first Macintosh computer (and Photoshop v.1) in 1990. Tim Corman left to pursue other business interests and Terry's wife Sally came on board to run the front counter. Firehouse survived a fire and a flood and continued to grow. The one Macintosh grew to many and a digital imaging department was born. The business shifted from a commercial photo lab into a digital imaging powerhouse. Darkrooms were replaced with workstations and traditional photographic services gave way to digital photo printers. Small-format work was replaced with wide-format, retail printing.

Firehouse building 2003As Firehouse's long-time employees will say, there was always a love/hate relationship with Fire Station 11. It had marvelous history, style and charm. Clients loved the ambiance. It was also difficult to modernize (running network cables between floors was a nightmare), and impossible to adequately heat and cool. In 2003 we came to the conclusion that the business had outgrown Station 11. We found a new home with the needed space and modernized infrastructure. Firehouse was now a leading provider for in-store graphics and we broadened our scope to not just regional, but national commercial accounts. Our culture of constant innovation and reputation for quality products allowed us to build lasting relationships with retail partners.

Firehouse 2011 logosFirehouse BV buildingIn 2011 Firehouse responded to a growing client concern for improved access to the European market by opening a European manufacturing facility. Firehouse BV is located in beautiful Venray in the Netherlands offering wide-format printing, finishing and packaging. It is uniquely positioned with reach to customers into Amsterdam, Berlin, Zurich, Paris and London - always delivering on-time to European markets. It's been very successful and it's just one example of how Firehouse will go the extra mile (or in this case about 4,000 miles) to bring innovative solutions to our retail partners.

We've come a long way in 40 years, but we will always carry the legacy of our humble beginnings with us as we continue to evolve.

Firehouse BV Manager








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