From the Bee archives: Coronet Portraits, school yearbook specialist, closes

Editor’s note: The Bee originally published this story on July 1, 2000. We have republished it online to give readers background information on a historic Sacramento retailer that will be memorialized in the Golden 1 Center.

Coronet Portraits, which snapped thousands of yearbook photographs for Sacramento-area high school seniors over the last half-century, has gone out of business.

The midtown studio, at 2116 21st St., closed its doors less than two weeks ago.

That day, photographers had been out at schools taking pictures of students for next year’s yearbook, according to one source. When they came back to the studio, they were told that would be the last day of business.

William Van Dermei, owner of Coronet, couldn’t be reached for comment.

A phone message at the business informs callers that the business has shut down.

“If you are calling about getting your senior portrait taken, please contact your school to find out which studio they have selected to replace us, “ according to the message. “If you are calling about your orders for graduation photos, we have already returned all orders and refunded all money received.”

Jerry Smith, owner of Bill Smith Photography, said Friday that Coronet apparently had been beaten out by a competitor for several sizable school contracts for portraits for next year’s senior classes. That may have prompted Van Dermei to shut the doors.

Phil Heller, general manager of Sirlin Photographers, another Sacramento studio, said he was shocked to hear that Coronet had closed its doors for good.

“It was well recognized by thousands of high school graduates (since the 1950s) who had their school pictures taken, “ Heller said.

Coronet was started by Noel Goursolle Jr., a World War II Navy pilot, who died in 1984. The business changed hands three times since then.

Smith said that Goursolle’s Coronet Portraits got into the high school photography business thanks to his father, who started Bill Smith Photography. The elder Smith became the official photographer for St. Francis High School and persuaded his friend Goursolle, who then specialized in baby pictures, to get into yearbook photography as well.

“Noel became the largest school photographer in the area, “ said Jerry Smith.

Smith said Goursolle had many of the outlying high schools, so he often flew a small plane to get there, usually landing on a dirt runway.

“One time he came in for a landing, hit the brakes and the plane flipped over on its back, “ Smith recalled.

Goursolle wasn’t injured.

“He really impressed the principal – “This guy is going to photograph the seniors, huh?’ “ Smith said, laughing.