New nonprofit wants to employ more workers on the spectrum

The 2021 pandemic prompted plenty of Tri-City businesses to reassess and regroup.

For Jim and Karen Pridemore, the pause allowed them to double down on the mission close to their heart: to help young adults on the autism spectrum.

Their son Tyler is on the spectrum.

“It allowed us to say, ‘What now?’ ” Jim said. “We are starting all over again.”

They were forced to close Picture Yourself, their create-it-yourself studio space at 627 The Parkway in Richland, during state-mandated shutdowns in early 2020. The Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business featured their business in a February 2019 story.

They decided to form a nonprofit, Spectrum Studios, and then in April they bought an art supply store, Art on the Columbia, at 830 N. Columbia Center Blvd. in Kennewick.

“This is the coolest thing we’ve ever been a part of,” Jim said.

They’re leasing the 6,500-square-foot building across from Lowe’s and have been busy renovating the inside to offer a variety of services they hope will generate revenue so they can employ more young adults on the autism spectrum.

Job opportunities for those on the spectrum decrease drastically after high school, and Spectrum Studios aims to help bridge this gap, Jim said.

These young adults earn $15 an hour, slightly more than the state’s minimum wage of $13.69 per hour.

The Spectrum Studios family has grown to 12 – and there’s a waiting list.

Volunteers are trained while awaiting paid positions.

Chantz Miner was the studio’s first hire, and he’s grateful for the opportunity. “I like the atmosphere and helping customers,” he said. “I learn a lot of new skills and grow more as a person.”

Garret Mashaw said he liked his position as he has an interest in photography.

On Paycheck Pizza Fridays, the team shares pizza for lunch. Then they go around the table and are encouraged to answer a question: what did you learn in the past week, and/or what good thing happened to you?

After answering, they receive their paycheck.

The exercise encourages them to work on their social interaction and skills, Jim said.

“It’s very important part of our culture to include that,” he said.

The Pridemores don’t want the nonprofit to be dependent on donations but rather a steady revenue stream from the retail side of their business.

“We’re counting on the community to come visit us and learn more,” Jim said.

Their offerings are varied: photography, art supply sales, events and a commercial photo lab.

There’s the Picture Yourself photo studio area. They’ll take photos for you or you can use a variety of backdrops and take your own. The Pridemores have 30 years of photo experience, as they operated a Florida photo studio before moving to the Tri-Cities.

Professional photographers can sign up for a monthly membership to use the studio and its professional-grade light sets and infinity background studio.

“It’s a heck of an opportunity,” Jim said

There’s a photo restoration service. Spectrum Studios will digitize old tapes, process film from disposable cameras, archive photos and print selfies from a thumb drive or your smartphone or tablet.

There’s the retail art store, which offers a wide variety of art supplies, from brushes and paints to canvases and colored pencils, to photography gear.

There’s a 1,600-square-foot meeting or classroom space that can accommodate up to 30 comfortably. The room is available to rent for art classes, business meetings or other small events. A projector and screen are available, with a sound system arriving soon.

Jim’s excited about the addition of the photo lab from the Kennewick Costco store. Costco donated it, and Jim hopes to have it operational by the end of the month. 

Customers can get prints from their vacations or holidays, or order holiday photo cards.

As the retail side of the nonprofit ramps up, the Pridemores will continue taking photos at area preschools “to keep the revenue stream flowing.”

Search Spectrum Studios: 830 N. Columbia Center Blvd., Suite B2, Kennewick; 509-579-4278; email Smiles@spectrum-studios.org; Facebook.

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