ENDURING ARRANGEMENTS- Love at Work
He was 22 and a recent college graduate; she was 17 and here from Denmark, working as an au pair.
By Robin Jovanovich
He was 22 and a recent college graduate; she was 17 and here from Denmark, working as an au pair. They met by chance at a Harrison restaurant, where they ended up watching a Monday night football game. Neither remembers the game score, but both Anja (Boriths-Sorensen) and Rob Porto recall it was pretty much love at first sight.
They courted for two months, but their relationship hit a speed bump when Anja’s visa expired and she had to go home.
It didn’t take Rob long to realize he was heartbroken and couldn’t stand being separated. He flew over with a proposal, which was accepted upon arrival. The couple needed more than her parents’ permission, “we had to get a special dispensation from the Queen of Denmark,” related Anja.
On Valentine’s Day, 1981, Anja and Rob were married. “Weddings in Europe were very different from here,” explained Anja. “My father put an ad in the local paper in Birkerod, announcing that ‘Anja and Robert are getting married at the Lutheran Church. Come for the Open House.”
It was a great occasion, as was their second marriage ceremony.
Soon after the newlyweds returned to New York to live, they recited their vows at St. Gregory’s Church in Harrison, where Rob grew up and they live today. They celebrated afterwards at a disco club in New Rochelle.
Rob worked as a computer consultant for a company in the Bronx. Anja went to work as a sales assistant for her father-in-law, Lawrence Porto, owner of Rye Camera.
From the time their first child was born until their third child went to kindergarten, Anja was a stay-at-home mom. But she’s a worker and wanted a job outside the home. She found the perfect fit: teacher’s aide at the Harrison Avenue School, which all three of her children (now 30, 29, and 28) attended.
Life was running smoothly until 1996, when Rob’s father had a stroke. While trying to decide what to do about the business, Anja started working at Rye Camera full-time, and Rob came in on Saturdays.
Looking back, they’ve never regretted their decision to run the family business, which was started by Rob’s uncle and father in the 1950s.
Anja runs the business, but makes it clear she couldn’t without Rob’s foresight and skills.
“He embraced technology. He understood the paradigm shift to digital and made sure our little business was moving right along with it,” said Anja. “Rob wrote our billing program; I just implement it.”
Rye Camera has come a long way in the past 16 years, from a Kodak and Fuji film development and enlargement drop-off location to a photographic arts center. Today, most of their business is video transfer, collages, scanning, and enhancement, but they still have a stable base of film users, mostly college students. For the past five years, the Portos have had the invaluable assistance of Pedro Garcia, who has a passion for the digital arts.
Anja credits Rob for her own passion for photography. “He grew up with a darkroom in his house and was a big Nikon camera user,” she said. “He understood that a lot of photography was about personality. I learned from him and from looking at our customers’ work, and have developed my own style.” Her nature portraits are captivating.
“If you have a passion, it can really develop!” she says with her signature smile.
The Porto family has spent decades enjoying their customers and being part of the community. “We also enjoy working together,” they said. “Luckily, most of the time, it’s only once a week!”
On February 14, their 32nd anniversary, Rob and Anja plan to have a quiet dinner at home. They’ll have no shortage of things to talk about.