Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, May 23, 2009.
I worked at A-Smile-A-Minute Photo Co. in Salina for about a year, 1957-58. My bosses were Bob and Ernie Vishneske. Their elderly parents, Lotte and Frank (? not sure) worked there as well.
I have not had the good fortune of having a good hometown camera store. My wife's family lives near Tampa, Florida and one thing I always looked forward to was visiting the 3 camera stores near there. Two of them have closed during the 15+ years we have been visiting family. There is one small one in New Port Richey, Florida that is a nice little camera store. I try to stop in and buy something every time we visit, even if it is a little more expensive than online shopping. It is a small store with a mix of new and used cameras and equipment. If any of you are in the area, I suggest stopping in. The name of the store is Pasco Camera.
Nearly 12 years on from the original post, and things have got exponentially worse it seems.
Even big chain Photo stores have gone bust in the intervening years, or are now severely struggling.
Long gone are the small family or independently-owned shops where one could have a friendly and lengthy natter with the proprietor then leave without a purchase, or maybe buy just a used filter or lens cap without feeling guilty.
There was one shop that I knicknamed 'The Camera Club', because whenever I visited it had at least 3 or 4 retired camera enthusiasts standing around chatting. They very rarely seemed to buy anything, or even acknowledge the presence of the proprieter. Seems like another world now!
In Leicester we had Jessops, which started here as a small shop before becoming a national chain. They had the "World Camera Centre" in Hinckley Road, plus a large store in town. Also Cecil Jacobs main store in London Road and another in Granby Street. Then there was Youngs Cameras in Belvoir Street - Youngs and Jacobs also had chains of shops in other towns. There were also independent shops like Midland Film Services. And Dixon's had two stores at one time. Now, nothing apart from a small "new" Jessops in the Highcross Centre, a place I've visited exactly twice.
I had favorite camera store windows. I felt I couldn't afford to walk inside. Bromfield Street in downtown Boston was a magnet. Also Mass. Ave. in Harvard Square. And I always read the Olden ad in Pop Photography when a new issue came out. Actually bought a few things there. A Kodak Retina I (discontinued). And Jordan Marsh in downtown Boston sold Kodachrome 25 36 exposure cartridges (including a Kodak mail in develop and slide mounting sack) for $3.45 (less than 10 cents a slide. This last fall a 36 exposure roll of Fujichrome Provia 100 was approaching a dollar a mounted slide.
Over the years my family owned and operated two "minilabs", the last of which closed it's doors a year ago, as turnover had dropped to unsustainable levels. I sometimes miss opening the store in the morning, with the warm smells of the processors coming up to operating temperature and the expectations of the day ahead. These days, down here in New Zealand, there are a variety of online businesses which have filled the gap so far as processing goes, but nothing will replace the fun of a little shop patronised by camera enthusiasts.
We still have a local camera store here. Fine Art Photo- he's been in business forever and has certainly done his best to roll with the changes over the decades. He's in the process of moving, apparently he's been renting space in a small strip center all these years and they have asked him, unceremoniously, to move shop, IE; to get out.
I do try to give him some business when I can. Fortunately he still sells film, he also has a decent bit of new and used cameras & related gear & equipment. Also, fortunately, he's moving just across the street- so clients don't have to go out of their "usual" way, or search to find the new store.
The big store in Seattle, Glazer's, moved to a new and much bigger building a few years ago.
Of course the biggest part is for digital cameras and accessories, and the smallest for film and darkroom supplies, but they are still there.
I am not so sure what last year did to them, as to many other stores.
But we did have some other, smaller stores such as Ritz around, and those have all closed.
It seems that Ritz is still around with two stores, one in UT and one in MD.
The store in Pasadena, that I used to go to when we lived there, closed about 10 years ago.
It seems that Samy's, near Los Angeles, where I bought my FM 42 years ago is still there.
I do remember that they wouldn't quote prices over the phone, but would tell me how much more
or less things cost than prices that I knew. I bought a black FM and AI 35/2.0 lens.
(Both of which I still have.)
Bigger cities are big enough to keep some stores open, but not the little ones like we used to have.
Does anybody remember Foto View Central owned by Willy Schwartz. Shop was near Grand Central Station in
NYC. Sold quality equipment.
What a true gentleman. He sold me his dealer's special Leicaflex SL with a very small markup
from his own purchase price,
I grew up in a small town in South Texas, so we had to to go to Corpus Christi, TX for the camera stores [circa the 70s-80s]. I seem to remember that they were three stores but since I was going to the beach most times anyway, I would do a quick stop at Ritz Camera in the mall to get film (if I ran out or forgot). Not sure what is there now these days. Where I live now there are none.
Possibly - very long time ago, I walked into a small camera shop near Grand Central it was wide rather than long with a counter and display cases parallel to the front door. Two gents behind the counter were wondering what they were going to do with a Nikon FB 8 case that a heavy hitter customer returned with some lens hood marks on the inside. Bought it at a nice discount on the spot. have it to this day. Be fun if it was your store!
I miss my local area Camera Shops. In Oak Ridge, TN, we had The Camera's Eye and also had Thompson Photo Products (still in business in Knoxville, TN as a photo lab), we also had F-Stop Photo which was camera store and one hour photo. In Athens, TN then we had Foto Fast, which was one hour photo and Minolta dealer. Miss the superb belated Superior Camera in Chattanooga, did repairs and sold camera gear and film. And also had send off photo processing. Enjoy Thompson Photo Products in Knoxville and the awesome F32 Photo in Knoxville (they sell cameras, film, and have a superb photo lab).
In my (small) home town 4 or 5 small camera stores closed over the years. (One of them specialized in, then, Soviet optical equipment). One still remains today and does quite well.
That single one is a family run shop. A few short streets from my parental home, in days when people still lived in the center of a town, and everyone knew everyone (now nobody lives above the shops, and most shops are franchise chain stores, run by owners who live elsewhere. After opening hours, streets are deserted. Used to be a living community). I went to school with the present owner. It used to be a pleasure to deal with the father of the present owner. Nowadays, it is almost impossible to buy anything there, because they are too expensive, and not flexible. I don't mind paying extra for service and to keep a small business alive. But there are limits. And when given the usual response to pointing out that i could get something not just for less, but for much less elsewhere: "you should buy it there, then", i invariably did.
When the previous owner was still around (sadly deceased years ago, and greatly missed), he often was found in his old shop, then owned and ran by his son. He often took me aside to tell me when his son would be out, and invited me to come back then. That very often resulted in a sale. "He'll never sell anything", he used to mutter. He was not right there, though. Just not to me.
Still, i wish them all the luck, and am glad to see they are doing quite well. Even though i haven't bought anything there for years.
My family opened its camera shop in 1974 and remained open until the spring of 1993. I was a senior in high school when we opened so I worked every afternoon. In college (I attended Mississippi State) I commuted (from West Point) so I could work most days. In addition to camera sales we did custom darkroom work, copied old photos, and sent cameras off for repairs.
We closed as the building we rented was being sold and we didn't want to move. Also, my mother was in poor health. I was teaching full time so I could only help on Saturdays and holidays. But, those were fun days.
I lived in New York from 1970 to 1995. I was familiar with most of the Manhattan camera stores mentioned in the second post. My favorite was Competitive camera, just down from Penn Station, which seemed to have the best deals when it was a small storefront. Then it took over the store next door and greatly expanded even including TV sets. The prices went up and I no longer went there. It closed not long after (in the 1980s?) long before digital heralded the demise of most of the other stores.
Thank you guys, I have read all your posts and so many memories of similar events happened to me. I don't really have a favorite camera store as I cannot afford to purchase almost anything. But I used to window shop a lot. sometimes spending the whole just looking at photography products from different camera stores.
An exterior shot of the camera shop at the annual Prairie Arts Festival (Labor Day weekend). My dad and I (mostly my dad) would take a few dozen black & white photos every year and display prints in the store window. Thankfully we had an Ektamatic processor at the time.
Dad with his photos on display.
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