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Other Dementis Take Different View

Your article"Dementi Changes Focus" (Street Talk, March 2) contains various errors and omissions which we wish to correct. The article would have been more accurately entitled "Dementi Sharpens Focus."

Dementi Studio is owned by Mrs. Elisabeth Dementi (the daughter-in-law of its founder, Anthony Dementi) and by her two children, Margit and Rob Dementi. The studio continues its tradition of fine portrait services, commercial, business and wedding photography from its location on Grace Street in downtown Richmond.

In the late 1990s, Mrs. Dementi — having run the studio for nearly 20 years since the illness of her late husband, the photographer Robert Dementi — invited a distant cousin, Wayne Dementi, to join her in the business and gifted him with a portion of the company's stock. Wayne's father Frank had been an employee of the company many years ago, before opening a competing photography studio. Wayne is not a professional photographer and did not take pictures for the studio, but he brought his background in marketing to the company. He became actively involved in its day-to-day business and for a few years became its primary representative in the community; last fall, however, the family felt compelled to repurchase the shares that Wayne had been gifted and to rapidly phase out his business relationship with the studio.

Mark Mitchell, who has been an intimate friend of the family and the business for 15 years and has been responsible for much of its photographic quality during that time, has added management of the business to his photographic responsibilities. Mrs. Dementi, though officially retired, continues her active involvement. Margit's husband, Ben Rankin, acts as president. Rob Dementi, who owns and operates Dementi Gentry Deyerle Photography in Salem/Roanoke, serves as visiting photographer and photography consultant.

Last summer, the studio added a location in the West End at the Shops at Libbie and Grove as a venue from which to sell its historical prints. For some time, this Grove Avenue location also featured the work of other Richmond artists, but economic necessity and the demand for portrait sittings in the West End led the company recently to halt the sale of those nonphotographic products. The studio at Grove continues its core mission to sell high-quality reproductions of the studio's one million archival photos, and now also offers studio portraiture at the store.

We regret that your writer did not contact the Dementi Studio staff or any member of the owning family, and therefore received and published a misleading impression of the studio's situation. We appreciate the opportunity to communicate the true state of affairs at Dementi Studio: The Dementi family intends to provide, at Dementi Studio, outstanding photographic services to Richmond's families and businesses for another 80 years.

Elisabeth Dementi
Rob Dementi
Margit Dementi Rankin
Mark Mitchell

Editor's Note: Wayne Dementi maintains that the Style story was accurate, and that he was a photographer with Dementi Studio. Our writer left messages with Mark Mitchell, but he did not return phone calls by press time.

Unwelcome Newcomer?

I find it ironic that with all the hyperbole about the dawning of a "new era" in Richmond that city and state politicians should be falling all over themselves celebrating the proposed return of Old Tobacco to downtown in the form of a Philip Morris research complex. ("Battle of the Press Releases," Street Talk, April 13) It's ludicrous that the arrival of a company that is one class action suit away from going belly up should be cause for rejoicing.

No one can deny the impact that Philip Morris USA has on Richmond's local economy. Two hundred years ago no one would have denied the economic impact the slave trade had on this town either. No one with a scintilla of intelligence can deny the devastating impact tobacco has on the health of millions of Americans and billions of people worldwide. To quote Philip Morris USA's own Web site, www.philip morrisusa.com: "Philip Morris USA ... agrees with the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases in smokers. …There is no safe cigarette."

That both the city and commonwealth should sweeten the development pot for an industry that annually poisons thousands of its citizens is ridiculous. The idea of an improved, safer cigarette makes as much sense as improved, safer crack. While Richmond and Virginia are on a roll let's invite investors to come in and reopen facilities to produce "new, improved" kepone and a "safer" Dalkon Shield — two other products that kept Central Virginia in the news spotlight for years.

Somehow I don't think the folks at the Massey Cancer Center or the United Network for Organ Sharing will be hosting a welcome party for their new neighbor.

John Kurec

Letters to the editor may be sent to: letters@styleweekly.com

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