While many businesses across the country have had to make extreme adjustments and distance from their communities, the Columbia Pike business community is a positive example of collaboration, support, and strength during the most challenging of times.

One of the businesses experiencing this effect is Will Reintzell Photography. Reintzell is a DMV local who spent much of his adult life working in the restaurant industry. His transition to photographer is a fairly recent one, but it has been largely successful.

“At the ripe old age of 45, I decided I wanted to try something different,” he said.

And he did just that. He decided to purchase a camera and hoped he’d found a new creative hobby. While snapping some photos around downtown D.C., he came across a lesbian couple and asked if he could take their photo. They agreed and loved the photo he took, so he emailed it to them. Some time later they contacted him to tell him again how much they loved the photo and that they had used it at their wedding.

After that, photography became more than a hobby. He enrolled in the photography and media program at Northern Virginia Community College and received his degree three years later.

“It was a bit overwhelming starting a new career from scratch at my age,” he said, “but I love the work and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

During the three years he was enrolled at NOVA, Reintzell built an impressive portfolio and list of clients as an on-location photographer. His work has been published in numerous consumer and trade publications, newspapers, corporate brochures, annual reports and corporate web sites, including The Phillips Collection Museum, The Washington Post, Northern Virginia Review, NASDA, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon Library. Locally, he works for Northern Virginia Magazine and even photographed events for the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO). Reintzell is currently working on a film documentary about artist Peter Bremers (Holland) and his glass art project titled “Bunnies.”

Reintzell has lived in the Arlington Village neighborhood of Columbia Pike since 2014, and when he began looking for studio space, he knew he wanted to keep it close to home.

“The Columbia Pike community is so unique,” he said. “When I moved here, I fell in love with it immediately and I wanted my business to be a part of this community as well.”

When Reintzell joined the Columbia Pike business community, he says he found nothing but support.

“I immediately felt like I was a part of something bigger than just myself and my business. The other businesses in my building were so supportive and it has been wonderful getting to know the other business owners.”

One of the first things Reintzell did when he moved into the space at 927 S. Walter Reed Dr. was take one of his prints to be framed at Art & Framing Club. And he quickly became friends with his business neighbors, Sol Schott of Acme Pie Co. and Michael Garcia with State Farm Insurance.

“Sol has been generous enough to let me do a shoot in the pie shop and Mike on the Pike has been very supportive. It has been so wonderful to be part of a community that works hard to support each other, especially now.”

While he has been grateful for the community support and his studio is more successful than he initially imagined it would be, the studio was never intended to be his sole source of income and the pandemic has taken its toll on his overall business.

“I initially wanted to have a studio so that I could work with more individual clients in between my larger on-location corporate bookings, but now it is all I have.”

Prior to the pandemic, Reintzell would often have multi-day bookings doing hundreds of headshots at once for large companies at their offices. But around the time he was opening his studio, he suddenly saw his calendar clear for the entire year. All of his on-location bookings were cancelled as offices closed and employees began working from home. And his initial excitement at signing the lease for his new studio on March 1 turned to uncertainty when stay-at-home orders and business closings were mandated by the state just two weeks later and he was forced to close his doors.

Luckily, he was able to secure assistance from the Small Business Administration with the new Payroll Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans and he was able to keep up with the new studio’s basic expenses for the three and a half months it was closed. In June, Reintzell’s studio was able to reopen under Forward Virginia’s Phase II guidelines.

“I do think I’m very lucky that my studio was already set up for just one or two people at a time. I didn’t have to make very many changes to how I operate and I was able to reopen pretty quickly compared to many other businesses,” he said.

The studio is a small space with room for a few seats to designate a waiting area, a small desk with a chair for hair and make-up, and, of course, a seat in front of a backdrop for taking the portraits and headshots.

However, Reintzell has had to make a few changes to how he originally planned to run the studio. His maximum capacity is now just four people and his clients are not able to bring friends or family to hang out and experience the shoot from the waiting area. He also wears a face mask throughout the entire shoot, as does his hair and make-up provider from DC Elite Image. He also leaves time in between bookings to thoroughly clean and disinfect the studio after every shoot.

“Safety is obviously very important to any business trying to stay open right now and I especially feel a duty to ensure everything is as clean as possible before clients come in because they won’t want to wear a mask and gloves while their portrait or headshot is taken.”

Since his first week reopening in June, Reintzell has experienced steady growth in the number of individual clients he sees, and the vast majority of his clients have been local to the Arlington area, if not the neighborhoods right along Columbia Pike itself.

“While the studio is certainly not able to completely replace the income I’ve lost, it has been an amazing experience,” says Reintzell. “I’m so grateful to have a business in a supportive community and I’m able to get to know so many wonderful people from the community. I feel blessed to be able to live this dream of mine during such a tough time.”