LEWISBURG — Melanie Ortiz has spent time in front of and behind a camera. The former New York and Philadelphia model who took over the iconic Lewisburg Studio in December was “just trying to get ready for the open house” before fully immersing the community in her work.
The ribbon cutting at the studio, 419 Market St., will take place Saturday at 10 a.m. There will be food, a photo booth, and giveaways such as t-shirt stickers and pens.
Ortiz discovered that the studio was about to be won through her husband’s aunt. “I blame her for this wonderful experience,” Ortiz said.
She called John Gardner, the previous owner on the phone. “Honestly, I cold called him and asked for information.” When she spoke to Gardner, she said, that seemed like a possibility.
In June, after announcing his retirement on December 31, 2021, Gardner said he was ready to sell it or develop a partnership with the right person.
“The mission of this studio was important. People have been begging me for 10 years not to retire,” Gardner previously said.
“We all think about our legacy at some point in our career. John Gardner may not have thought of it over the years as he built his business and brand, but Lewisburg Studios has a legacy of capturing moments for many in our community. It is good to see this legacy continue with a new owner,” Lewisburg Mayor Kendy Alvarez said.
“The amount of love he received from the community was phenomenal. He can show anyone he’s seen through a lens,” Ortiz said.
She said her style had differences but similar connections existed in their craft. “It was so nice to meet someone who took it to the next level.”
She felt honored to “feed her baby” and wants to allow the studio to thrive.
“We kind of got on with it,” Ortiz said of his new role. “When it comes to this kind of thing, just do it.”
Excited to work and “meet everyone,” she credited her new employees, Sam and Mandy, for the cohesion that exists in the studio.
“That’s what I was missing before,” Ortiz said.
She said having extra people and time makes the job “so much better”.
Besides her husband, Ortiz gave special credit to her sister, Valerie. “She’s been so phenomenal.” She said many of her family members would come to celebrate her ribbon cutting this weekend.
Ortiz, who is originally from Puerto Rico where his parents still reside, lives in Orangeville with her husband, Colton, who served in the Air Force and is currently a firefighter.
“We have a small farmhouse” that includes alpacas, goats, dogs and cats, Ortiz said.
Growing up, Ortiz “was pretty quiet.” She discovered her creativity early on, saying people saw her personality in her work.
“I thought I could do that too. I can show others who they are (through his work),” she said.
Ortiz’s creative career started “quite young.” While modeling in the big cities, she discovered that photo crews had more fun. She joked that they had to eat sandwiches provided by the restaurant.
Ortiz, who received a scholarship to attend Bloomsburg University as a painting major, began taking film photography.
“I kind of doubled down. I was missing a photography class,” she said.
something is missing
Ortiz said she felt something was “missing” in her work. While her husband served in the military, Ortiz worked at the JC Penney Photography studio in Stroudsburg before it closed.
A friend asked her if she photographed weddings.
“I said ‘why not?’ I fell in love with it. I got to hang out with strangers and it was so much fun. She said everything was fine.
“That’s pretty much how I ended up here,” Ortiz said.
“I just want to grow and grow,” she said, and carry on Gardner’s legacy with a unique blend of “creativity.”
“I love the color, the design, the art. I hope to continue caring for her customers and bringing my creativity to them,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz said every photographer is different. “I hope to continue the same customer service and comfort that he has brought to everyone who comes here.”