New Photo Booth Arcade Hopes To Bring A Smile To Walnut Creek

Smile Tu Inc. opened last week in the Encina Grande Shopping Center

Amy Bauer in one of the booths at the Smile Tu Inc. in Walnut Creek
Amy Bauer in one of the booths at the Smile Tu Inc. in Walnut Creek
The idea started with a visit to Japantown in San Francisco.

Amy Bauer took her two daughters to that part of the city a number of years ago along with some foreign exchange students from Japan.

Bauer was amazed at the popularity of the photo booths where young people would sit inside, pose while the automatic camera flashed and then make artistic stickers from the pictures.

"My kids just loved it when they went there," said Bauer.

So, when she and her husband wanted to start a business for their daughters to eventually oversee, the photo booths came to mind.

They purchased three of the Japanese style booths from arcades in San Francisco and set up shop in a vacant storefront next to the Safeway in the Encina Grande Shopping Center in eastern Walnut Creek.

Smile Tu Inc. opened last week.

For $10, customers can pose in one of the booths for 15 minutes, using props and wigs, and create their own photo stickers.

There's also two rooms in the back, one with a Mad Hatter theme and the other with a Western theme where birthday parties and other celebrations can be held.

There's even three "old school" video games up front, including a vintage Pac-Man.

"This is a kid-oriented business," said Bauer.

She and her husband have a six-month lease on the space to try it out. They don't plan to oversee the business themselves long term.

Bauer has a dental lab in Marin County that she's operated for 27 years. Her husband, John Fouhy, owns a tractor company where he's done weed abatement and other services for two decades.

The couple hopes their two daughters, Saundra, 27, and Monique, 24, will run the place.

Both young women have started working on the financial and social media end of the business.

The family lives in the small unincorporated town of Briones northeast of Orinda. The daughters attended Alhambra High School.

Over the years, the family had 11 foreign exchange students from Japan stay with them. That's where the trips to Japantown started.

Bauer said they looked around the Bay Area for a place to open up the photo booth business.

A real estate agent finally suggested the Encina Grande Shopping Center, where a lot of students from Northgate High and Foothill Middle School already hang around the Safeway,  Rocco's Pizza and other businesses.

Bauer said they got a favorable lease arrangement, so they moved in.

She said they hope to work with student groups and booster organizations to bring some smiles to the young folks in the neighborhood.


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