Gunther Miller has a passion for quirky ventures.
The 47-year-old Ellicott City resident is known for peddling “Choose Insanity” parody bumper magnets, holiday cards featuring photos of dead deer and “HoCo” magnets picturing the vultures often spotted on the side of the road.
But his latest project focuses less on poking fun and more on doing good. It all started with a 360-degree camera he got for his birthday.
“I thought that the gift was great, but it’s not something that you use every day,” Miller says. “I started thinking about how I could put it to good use, and Main Street Ellicott City came to mind because around that time in March a lot of the stores were starting to open up again.”
So Miller jumped into action to help businesses reopening following the July 2016 flood as well as those moving into town. He contacted businesses and set up times to take 360-degree interior photos that they could use for marketing and social media purposes. These digital images allow viewers to look around from a single standing position inside a store, restaurant, museum or other venue.
“It’s another way of showing that Ellicott City is back and in business. I’m really happy to be able to help them out and show potential customers what you can expect when you arrive,” Miller says.
Miller has a full-time job during the week as a quality assurance manager for Vectorworks Inc. in Columbia, along with a side business called Demented Designs, through which he sells the off-color magnets and cards (He’s sold about 1,500 “Choose Insanity” magnets online and at local events). He spends many of his weekends on Main Street setting up, taking photos and posting them on the website he set up specifically for the project: 360ellicottcity.com.
He has uploaded 360-degree photos for around 60 businesses and has about 20 left to photograph.
For Manor Hill Tavern, a restaurant that opened in Ellicott City’s historic district earlier this year, the project has provided a new tool for attracting customers.
“We didn’t have 360-degree photos of our building, and we thought that it would be a great asset to use to promote our party rooms for events so that people could see exactly what the rooms look like,” says Corey Mull, head of marketing for Manor Hill Tavern. “We were really excited that someone was willing to do this. It seemed like a win-win for everyone.”