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From 1880 to 1960  orange groves streched as far as the eye could see in  Orange County, California. One of these giantic Groves was owned be the Methe Family whose huge acreage and home was at 2983 East Miraloma in Anaheim. From there South past where Disney land would be, were oranges and oranges and more oranges. With shipping and processing plants in Anaheim , Orange and most other villages,  The crop the" Orange" County was named after.


In 1945 Jack Benny's radio progrm brought Anaheim's name before a huge audiensce during a radio comedy bit, when the Union Station conductor (played by Mel Blanc - voice of Bugs Bunny etc.) announces to Jack’s entourage heading to New York City: “Train leaving on Track five for Anaheim, Azusa and Cuca----monga!”   The Anaheim city name became well known as the funny phrase was repeated often and worldwise.


Jack benny was eventually made an honorary Mayor of Anaheim, twice.


In 1954, progress really picked up speed, with the planning of Disneyland. Walt Disney's original budget of $10,000 soon grew into the multi-millions.


Railroads competing with low fares attracted passengers to fill the growing number of jobs being created in California, and Disney's TV show featuring the construction of the new theme park put Anaheim in homes nationwide every week.


Land prices skyrocketed making it more profitable to sell land than grow growing oranges.


Developers came and the Orange groves began to quickly disappear as residences, businesses and Industries boomed in Southern Califonia and especially in Anaheim (Currenly the largest city in Orange County. This was before the California government made the decision to drive away business and jobs and embrace a welfare state. But that is a seperate issue.)


The homestead as it looked in 2007 when Don Dormeyer purchased it to build the Red Gum Creative Campus

The Methe family sold parcels of property year after year  and the City of Anaheim called the new industrial area the Anaheim Canyon, "Center for Advanced Technology" and it attracted major corporations, like Boeing Aircraft.


The Orange groves and packerseventually closed up.


With the Orange indusrty gone the property owners sold their acreage piece by piece and the property at 2983 E Miraloma became a chicken ranch which required much less acerage. And the Industrial Park grew up all around it.


Eventually age forced a decision on the elderly couple that holding on to a large property and aging house  was too just much. Too much upkeep that was not  being accomplished, too much property for an elderly couple to deal with.  The time came when  they decided to sell their home. The last remaining property of their former giantic Orange Groves. The time was right with property values in the area at $1.5 Million dollars per acre. vs the 1945 prices which were only a few dollars per acre.



Advertising Photographer Don Dormeyer came along while doing a favor for a friend and saw the new For Sale sign which attracted his attention. 


The property had deterioriated to the point where everyone assumed any buyer would just tear it all down and bulldoze the land.


But the old house had Historic significance.  One of 109 properties of Historical signifince, but not enough signifance to be listed on the historical registery. A good thing for a business property.



Inspection of the very old house  (Referred to as the haunted house) revealed it was made with good materials and workmanship that simply are not part of modern construction. In 100 years it had been through major earthquakes and storms without damage.


The basics were intact and actually just needed lots and lots of attention. The large swimming pool hadn't seen water in twenty years. The plumping fixtures were shot. The outbuildings were falling down, but the house was intact and solid. 


And it was a large corner lot in the middle of a major industrial park. 



Don envisioned what it could be.  And


 After moving to California from NY in 1982 Don Dormeyetr had been doing automotive photography for many years for Toyota, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and other  manufacturers. He took it as a sign when he discovered a 1931 Ford in one of the old barns. Rusted, but intact. Unfortunately it was not part of the sale.


Photographers never really retire.  After 45 years shooting in New York and a very nice  studio he had designed in nearby Fullerton, Ca. Don was faced with a retirement decision.


To retire and perhaps fade way, or adapt to a new career as a production studio owner and use his knowledge, experience and studio design talents to benefit other, often younger photographers and producers. Essential making his former competitors, who he greatly respected,  his new customers.  Together they would all have greater success.


Naturally there were detractors who told him he was "nuts" and he would "lose everything he had earned in his entire 45 year photography career". And that was a real possibility. As he had always done, he and his wife Mary, ignored detractors, embraced the challenge, and went to work making the new endeavor happen.


Mary, Don's wife of 40 years at that time, as always, encouraged him to follow what he wanted to do. Or maybe she had just given up on trying to get him to do anything he didn't want to do. She had been through this re-invention process many times before as their business had to adjust to the realities of progress and new competition. No one ever said it would be easy.


They decided to go for it and create a bigger, new, creative complex that he would rent to his clients, former competitors, photographers and production companies.  The seed of Red Gum Creative Campus was born. And so was a incrediable amount of work.  He loved evey minute of it (Well almost every minute) 


The business climate in California had deteriorated to the point where a more experienced businessman would have just moved elsewhere. Don and Mary's naivate was tested by seeming insurmountable and illogical goverment regulations and constant delays. Months and months of delays.


It took 1.5 years to get the building permit for a simple pre-engineered steel building.


An extremelay expensive "water management plan" was required to prove the the 12 INCH elevation difference from the front to the rear of the property wouldn't cause flooding or landslides.


A $40,000 fire wall had to be designed and approved to protect the CONCRETE building next door in case the new STEEL building should somehow combust and have the steel go up in flames.


"Everytime we completed one requirement they came up with another, even more expensive."


Finally we had completed every task, paid every fee, and tax, and were ready for the final inspection.


We were refused the certificate to occupy the building because the Air conditioning thermostat was too high for a handicapped person in a wheelchair to set it. Seems the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requires that the thermpostat be lowered to wheel chair height, A height at which Don's bad back made it diffucult for him to adjust HIS OWN thermostat. Another inspector approved it after a locking cover was installed.


After 2 years of beauacratic hell, the studio finally opened. In 2008.


Opened Into the worst economy since the great depression.


The auto industry (Don's major client base) was in freefall. Everyone was losing their jobs nationwide. Unemployment hit record highs.  Companies were closing up. People were losing their homes to bank forclosure. And successful companies were fleeing California's oppressive business regulations.


The Auto industry's Ford Premier group left California. Lincoln, Jaguar, Land Rover, Astin Martin.  Gone! Nissan left for a better business enviroment, Toyota left a few years later. The new electric cars companies failed or left with the most successful one Tesla expanding its battery productin in another nearby state, but not in California.


 A rather rough start. 


Never give up!


Never quit!.  


It's got to get better eventually!  


Doesn't it?


Slowly the studio obtained some customers. And those customer came back. And, they told other prospects who tried this new studio that seemed to have the uniques amenities and speciality equipment they needed.


And they came back and they told others.


Slowly, very slowly, the business grew enough to survive. While several similar studios closed up, Red Gum slowly but surely gained customers, then bigger customers. Well known name clients started to come to Anaheim to shoot.


We had a company from Isreal with and Ad agency in NY and a photographer from London come to Red Gum because it was the right combination for their high end studio and underwater shoot. They needed the studio and underwater production capabilities. Red Gum was the perfect spot in the world for their production.


When a client says "We love it here" or "I see no reason to ever go anywhere else"  All the work seems worth it.


Impressive clients are returning time and again.  And Red Gum's effort to be the best possible place to shoot continues. Everything we do to make our clients more successful, comes back to us in repeat business.

Each of our customers make a little more profit because we make a little less profit on each production.  This keeps the studio busy almost all the time, and busy with repeat business is a profitable business model.




to be continued....


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