SMithtown residents have grown accustomed to an ever-changing Main Street, with businesses coming in and out regularly. Recently, James Cress Florist moved a few doors down from its original location. For the past few months, people have noticed that photos of families, newlyweds, and smiling bride and groom no longer fill the Renaissance Studio window at 39 W. Main the way images have for more than four decades.

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While the commercial sign is still there, owner Ron Denenberg cleaned up the building which he first rented in 1979 and purchased in 1994. Soon the storefront will be occupied by a new business. The photographer was already working from home as much as possible during the pandemic. After the death of his wife, Liz, in December, Denenberg decided it was time to retire.

He and his wife founded the company in 1971, initially working in Queens. The couple moved from Brooklyn to Smithtown in 1973 and opened their Long Island store in 1979. For a few years, the Denenbergs ran a small photo studio in their home in town. They then discovered that the people of Smithtown could not have such a business in their house.

“We didn’t know you couldn’t have a home business because we knew people who had home businesses,” he said. “But, photographers are considered retailers because they are considered camera stores.”

He said he was surprised that camera stores and photo studios were lumped together because he never sold cameras, and throughout his career he didn’t meet any photographers. professional who sells merchandise in their studios.

The couple found Smithtown to be different from city life.

“It was a whole new world,” Denenberg said. “It was an agricultural country.”

He remembers a time when a pizzeria, cleaners and bakery were located across from his studio, where CVS is now. Behind it when they first moved into town were Blue Jay Market, then King Kullen and finally a hardware store and Strawberry Field Supermarket. Where the Thai House stands today, there was once a store with a soda fountain counter.

Denenberg also remembers when Main Street was lined with carob trees from Route 111 to Maple Avenue until 1985 when Hurricane Gloria knocked down the majority of the trees. The traffic was also different in the early years.

“I used to be able to walk across Main Street without looking back in the 70s,” he said. “Now it’s a race for your life.”

Ron and Liz Denenberg pose for a photo before the pandemic at Short Beach in Smithtown, one of Ron’s favorite places to take pictures. Photo by Ron Denenberg

Throughout his career he has photographed people in many local and surrounding locations. Among his favorite filming locations are the Byzantine Catholic Church of the Resurrection on Edgewater Avenue and Flowerfield Celebrations with its ponds and fountains.

“It’s just one of the most beautiful places to take pictures,” he said.

Denenberg also counts Smithtown’s Short Beach and near the Smithtown Bull among his favorite settings. Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket is another favorite because he said no matter where the sun is, you can find a beautiful spot in the park.

Over the decades, he has also witnessed many changes in the photo industry. He credited his wife with always thinking outside the box.

When the first digital camera came out, she knew it could potentially harm the profession. Liz Denenberg encouraged her husband to start offering more portrait photography and then commercial services where he would take photos of buildings, employees and even products.

“I pushed myself to learn different techniques,” he said.

The business owner said that without relying on wedding photography, he and his wife have saved time by spending less energy post-event creating scrapbooks and retouching photos.

“Our income has gone down because weddings are very expensive, but our [bottom line] revenue increased because we weren’t spending on other photographers and employees,” he said.

Recently, the pandemic has also affected the industry, he said, with many newlyweds not only postponing but canceling their receptions. COVID-19 restrictions have affected other celebrations such as communions, as well as bar and bat mitzvahs.

It was a big change for Denenberg who, along with the photographers he hired, once photographed 200 to 300 children a year celebrating their first communion in addition to an average of nearly 100 weddings each year and other jobs.

Now that he is retiring, Denenberg is putting all that behind him. The photographer said he was looking forward to spending more time with his children and grandchildren, as well as traveling. And although it will be smaller than the ones he used in the past, Denenberg has a new camera that will accompany him on his future adventures.


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