Grote Photography lives on through portraits of the past

Photo courtesy Main Street Greenville

GREENVILLE – When lifelong Greenville residents think of photography the name Ted Grote is at the top of most people’s list. Ted and his wife Leila were best known for over 50 years of local film photography, capturing memories and family moments that are long since forgotten.

Grote Photography has been a part of downtown Greenville since before 1961 when the couple set up their studio at 324 South Broadway.  Over the years the Grote’s have provided photography services for high school seniors, family and child portraits, weddings, beautiful landscapes and much more. Seeing the latest featured portraits in the front window of the studio was something that got the attention of many as they walked or drove by Grote Photography over the years.

When Main Street Greenville Executive Director Amber Garrett asked how Ted determined which portraits were displayed in his front window, he simply said, “the ones that made me want to cry!”

It is no question how passionate Ted and Leila are about photography and their community. Ted took his first photo at the age of 13 and final one at the age of 84. With the ever changing demands of digital photography and some recent health issues, keeping up with the business became too much for the couple to continue to handle.

In October 2013 Ted went to his business neighbor and friend Janet Wideman of Janet’s Broadway Bakery to announce that he and Leila were ready to call it quits and sell the business. Though Wideman had to turn down the offer of buying the building, she wanted to help out in anyway she could since the Grotes had no family in the area. She immediately contacted Amber Garrett to inform her of the Grotes’ decision and make a plan to assist them.

As a for sale sign took over the former featured portrait display window, it was apparent that another downtown Greenville historic business was making way for a new owner.

With the closing of the sale only weeks away, Garrett, Wideman and another downtown business owner CJ Jasenski, formed a team of volunteers to help clear out the studio, including Dirk Wideman, Rob and Phoenix Garrett, Liam and Charlie Jasenski, Steve Birt, David Nilsen, John Baker, Greg Metzcar, Patti Jetter, Nancy Person, Julia Keller-Clark, Gail Bankson, Julie Kessen and Diana & Gary Wagner.

“We wanted to be sure all of items that were stored in the building were secured and accounted for,” Garrett said. “There was so much stuff and going through it all was like taking a trip back in time.”

In an interview with The Early Bird, Garrett and Jasenski reflected on how much fun it was to sort through the “millions of faces” that Ted and Leila captured over the years.

“Seeing a lifetime of work was amazing as we went through everything,” Jasenski said. “The consistency of his work over the years was remarkable!”

An auction was recently held to raise money for the Grotes, who are now enjoying their golden years at a local retirement facility. The money raised from the sale of decades worth of memories and equipment went to the couple for expenses. Hundreds of special photos held back, including the iconic “green chair” will be made available to the public at the Ted Grote Portrait Sale on May 17 during the Food Truck Rally, Eat on the Street event. The event will be held from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at the lot next to the Third Street Market and elementsLife at 120 West Third St. in Greenville. Donations are encouraged, all money raised will benefit Ted and Leila Grote. Additional Food Truck Rally events are scheduled for June 14 and July 12 at which any remaining items will be available.

For more information contact Main Street Greenville at 937-548-4998 or via email at



Click here to read poem by Janet Wideman about her friend titled ‘A Photographer’s Work’

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