For me the vast majority of my equipment and supplies are bought from eBay or internet sites, and I have very little personal interaction with the sellers other than a brief email or telephone interaction.
Last week, while visiting friends in Albuquerque, I made a day trip up to Santa Fe to wander a few galleries and pick up some paper and other sundries from Bostick and Sullivan. My wife, 9 month old daughter, and I walked into Bostick and Sullivan at noon, expecting a brief, over-the-counter purchase. We walked out two hours later, very pleased to have gotten to know some of the Bostick-Sullivan clan.
Our first sign that we were in the right place was the children's toys scattered all over the lobby. Now I am not one to tout "family values", but there something wonderful to realize that there still are small family-run businesses. Mina, the nine-month-old, was quickly passed to (Richard) Sullivan and then to (Melody) Bostick while we spoke with Richard and Melody about traveling, parenting, the gallery scene, and who we should be contacting in Mexico. Later, as Mina and a 10 month-old Bostick-Sullivan tried to gnaw on each other, I had a great discussion with Kevin Sullivan about digital negs and POP prints. We walked out feeling like we had just spent a few hours in somebody's living-room.
It is nice to know that the stores we buy from are not only stocked with "real" film and paper, but also run by real people. I look forward to my next visit to Santa Fe.