TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — On a Tuesday morning in March, light pours through the wide windows of Coastal Film Lab. Two neon signs hang on the tall white walls: a flamingo, nodding to the owner’s Florida upbringing, and a lucky cat behind the register, a symbol of good fortune. Lo-fi music putters gently above the chatter of regulars who have stopped by to drop off yet another roll of film.
One employee checks in film — some from locals, others mailed in from as far as the Virgin Islands. A lab tech uses gloved hands to hang long, orange-brown 35mm negatives on S-hooks before feeding them through a scanner. On an oval table, another worker gently MacGyvers an old camera back to life, armed with Q-tips and toothpicks and syringes filled with isopropyl alcohol.
In the same room, customers can browse shelves of refurbished cameras, peruse a metal cabinet filled with camera accessories, or peer into a mini fridge stocked with film. They can stroll over to ask the techs a question about their latest project or sit with a friend on the couch by the windows and flip through photo books.
The chill vibes and open floor plan at Coastal Film Lab are intentional. Owner and founder Stephen Zane, a local commercial portrait photographer, wanted to create a space where creatives could find a home away from home: somewhere relaxing and inspiring, but never pretentious. The welcoming atmosphere is a big draw for his customers, many of whom are new to film photography.
“We have some people that have been into it for a while, or people that, like me, learned on the internet a few years ago. Or older people that are coming back to it,” Zane said. “But most of the people doing it are college kids, or even high school kids, that are just getting into it.”
“We’re all that personality type,” he continued. “You just go down the rabbit hole and never come out.”
Zane got sucked in when he was a teenager growing up in New Tampa and Riverside Heights. He started using a twin-lens reflex camera to capture square frames of landscapes, and sent his rolls off to be processed in Utah before learning how to develop black-and-white film at home.
“I really like cameras and mechanical things,” said Zane, now 26. “…….