O’FALLON – A world-renowned photographer with an eye for revitalization projects is investing big time in downtown O’Fallon.
Salvatore Cincotta, who operates a photography business bearing his name at 226 West State Street, presented to the Sunrise Rotary Club of O’Fallon on Wednesday, Feb. 20 and discussed how he came to work in O’Fallon, his business ventures and his plans to broaden the community’s economy.
Cincotta said he and his 40 employees begin their day at 8 a.m. and work until around 11 p.m.
“We love what we do, we’re very creative, but there’s also this curiosity about what we do out of that building,” he said.
Originally from New York, Cincotta said the first question he gets from people is, “Why O’Fallon?”
“I worked in tech for about 15 years, bouncing all over United States in tech. I worked with Microsoft, Proctor and Gamble. I ended up in St. Louis and I had a friend who said ‘if you’re going to buy a home, you need to live on the other side of the river’,” he said.
“At Microsoft, I got tired of working for someone else,” Cincotta continued. “I loved photography. I said to myself, ‘I don’t care about how much money I make. All I want to do is what I love for the rest of my life.’ If I can wake up every day doing what I love, that’s not really working.”
Cincotta said that he started Salvatore Cincotta Photography 12 years ago out of his basement in his home on North Lincoln.
“We weren’t quite sure how the photography thing would work out,” he said. “We would drive by the old furniture store and say ‘One day we will be in that building’ and that was our dream and aspiration as we were growing our business.”
Cincotta has a decorated resume, including a photography shoot with President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama at a fundraising event in Missouri.
While Cincotta is widely known for his photography, including “high end” wedding photography, he quickly started evolving his business into other services. Cincotta produces Shutter Magazine, considered the largest professional photography magazine in the world.
“It’s produced locally, printed locally and in Barnes and Noble around the United States,” he said.
Cincotta said his company hosts a conference called Shutter Fest in St. Louis and brings in 3,000 photographers from all over the world. The conference is the third largest such conference in the world.
Additionally, Cincotta said his company specializes in generating 30-second videos for small businesses geared to target younger generations.
“In my staff of 40, we have photographers, video, graphic design, web design and social media expertise,” he said. “We started realizing small businesses need help with social media.”
Aside from his businesses, Cincotta is interested in revitalizing parts of Downtown O’Fallon and bringing more to the area.
“We’re getting more involved with real estate,” he said. “We believe in developing O’Fallon.”
Cincotta purchased Paul’s Frame Shop at the corner of South Lincoln Avenue and East State Street with the intent to have it rehabbed, before he discovered it required $140,000 in lead paint mitigation.
Because of his love for historic buildings and his dream of the revitalization of Downtown O’Fallon, he said he decided to “putting our money where our mouth is” and invest in downtown.
Since acquiring the building and discovering the lead paint issues, Cincotta also discovered that 1.5 feet of the building property is considered railroad property. Also, an additional issue is that there are power lines two feet away from the top of the building.
“Imagine this conversation now with the city, Ameren and with the railroad,” he said laughing.
Cincotta said there is a plan for Paul’s Frame Shop despite the delays.
“We have a plan now to knock the building down.”
Cincotta said that he would build a brand new structure that would be a historically styled building complete with brick and open windows. He said it would be the perfect building for an insurance company, a doctor’s office or a lawyer’s office.
Cincotta also owns the white building next door to Ice Cream U Scream at the corner of Cherry and State Street.
“As we get through Paul’s Frame Shop we want to put a 36,000 square foot building there that is three stories,” he said. The plan he envisions would include a restaurant in the first floor of the building, loft apartments on the top floor.
Cincotta recognized that parking downtown will present an issue with his future growth aspirations – especially as he plans on doubling the number of his employees from 40 to 80 within a five year time span. “Without a doubt, there is a parking problem downtown.”
Cincotta said he ultimately wants to invest in Downtown O’Fallon.
“I want it to be exciting to live in Downtown O’Fallon.”