FOREST CITY | Bonnie Willis Studios, a photography and piano lessons studio, has moved from Bonnie Willis’s home to 130 N Clark St. It has been open in its new location since mid-January.
The past four years, Willis’s studio had been in her house since her family had moved to Forest City.
“I just would like to be seen more, more out in the public eye and not cooped up in the house,” she said.
She has only been able to have two weeks of piano lessons because the snowy weather had delayed the arrival of the new grand piano to the weekend of Feb. 16.
Willis grew up in Forest City and said she decided to keep her business in Forest City not just because of the convenience and proximity to her home but also because she wanted to be part of the community again.
Willis said she hopes her business’s move will generate more interest in filling the buildings along Clark Street and creating more of a community.
“It would be nice to see the town grow in a healthy way,” she said.
After looking for over a year, Willis said she was grateful she found the landlords she did, Heidi and Tom Aitchison, because "they take excellent care of the property and don’t let it get run down.
“They do it the right way, and that’s what I think this community needs, is it to be done that way."
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The move will also hopefully bring more photography clients in for business and be assured she means business.
“Sometimes having a home-based business, people don’t take you as seriously, so I’m hoping I can just be part of the community and people can see I’m – ‘Oh, OK, she’s legit,’” Willis said.
Currently, Willis has 25 students for piano lessons. She said if someone wanted to use her photography studio she might let them.
“It would be nice to collaborate with other photographers more,” she said. “There’s a sense of competition out there, and when I first started doing photography in this area, I had that mindset – competition, competition, you know? And it’s not about that. It’s really not. Four years into this, it’s not about the competition. It’s about the people you meet and just being you.”
Willis said her favorite camera brand to use is Nikon because she’s learned how to use it in and out.
Willis’s main subjects of photography for her studio are newborns, weddings and families, but she said she enjoys taking pictures of landscapes and other things when she is out traveling or on vacation.
“That’s more personal for me, I think, than I would go out and sell," she said, but I definitely like the hobby part of landscape."
Willis said a business owner must know their strengths and weaknesses and her weakness was online marketing, so she prefers to advertise through word of mouth and seeing she is an established business in town.
“I’m pretty excited. I’m looking forward to growing here versus being at my house and feeling like I was going to get as far as where I was,” Willis said.