Daniel Smith is nothing if not adaptable.

Daniel Smith is nothing if not adaptable.

The Cleveland native was a labor lawyer in central Ohio for many years until deciding about a decade ago that he'd had enough of that. He resigned to chase what he admitted was a "vague idea" about helping people tell the stories of their lives.

"I have a background in history and I like talking to people," Smith said recently.

Peddling that concept door to door found few takers, but Smith rented a small storefront at 4161 N. High St. in Clintonville. He envisioned it as studio space where he could film people as they took a trip down memory lane.

The first week the store was open -- some eight years ago -- someone came in and asked if Smith could transfer videotape to DVD. He said, "Sure." Shortly thereafter, another person dropped in to inquire if he could scan slides. "Sure can," was the reply.

These, along with digitizing old film in a variety of formats, now form the heart and soul of what's become a successful business. Smith named it Familyography, and has opened a branch office in Cleveland.

"You follow the nose of your customers," the Upper Arlington resident said. "Over the years, this grew into a full-service family-memory service."

"Dan's wonderful," Rebecca Ballard of Granville said last week. "He has done quite a few projects for me."

Ballard first heard of Familyography about six years ago when she was looking for someone to transfer to a digital format the more than 3,000 slides her father had taken over the years during family vacations and fishing trips. Her search took her to Smith's enterprise.

"He was to do a pretty quick turnaround, just two months, and everything was ready in time for Christmas," Ballard recalled.

Her most recent project for Familyography was trickier. Ballard found some reels of film at the home of her parents, some of it dating to the 1920s and earlier. It had been shot in locations around the world by her great-grandfather. He was a great believer in reincarnation, Ballard said, and filmed his visits to places such as Egypt and a Hopi Indian reservation where he believed he had lived in previous incarnations.

Old film is a delicate thing, and Ballard said Smith warned her he would have only one shot to transfer her great-grandfather's travels to digital format.

"If it was anyone else, I probably wouldn't have had that much trust," Ballard said.

"I started bare-bones," Smith said. "Over the course of time, you go where the demand is leading you. We've invested tons in equipment. Certainly, technology has changed in terms of computer processing power. We've invested heavily in our technology for transferring film. I do believe we have the best in the world. Then we just invested in some significant slide-scanning technology.

"In this business, it's important to talk to your customers to find out their needs and what they want."

Dave Powell of the Northwest Side is another satisfied Familyography customer. He had Smith transfer "boxes and boxes and boxes" of old family films onto DVDs.

"It was 30 years' worth of family movies in various formats," Powell said. "I guess what I really, really appreciated about how he did it was the packaging and labeling. He just seemed to have a great knack for pulling out a certain picture from that particular era and putting it on the label.

"It was a great investment. It was my wife's Christmas gift. She just loved it."

"I'm busy round the clock," Smith said. "The Cleveland store is still growing, but this year, business in Columbus is just going through the roof."

The switch from labor attorney to preserver of family memories has been a blessing, he added.

"I don't work a day in my life now," Smith said. "It's a great thing to do. I enjoy it immensely."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1