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Nostalgia for the old camera store?

JDM von Weinberg , May 23, 2009; 06:42 p.m.

As is so often the case, I was tootling along on another forum and started to go seriously off topic as I remembered the camera store where I bought my first serious camera in 1959-60. I stopped and thought I'd better wander on back here where I might be appreciated...

It was a Heiland Pentax H2, and I got it at the A-Smile-A-Minute Camera store in Salina, Kansas.
It was a fondly remembered local store located at 119 South Santa Fe. The last trace I can find of them is a small business loan in 1984, but long after that, when I went back to visit family in Ks, the store stood closed, but with all its stock, everything, still sitting there, including window displays and everything. Then, sadly, a few years ago when I went back the store was empty.
Alas (sob), I have no pictures, but the one below was taken looking north from near the store.

Do the rest of you have memories of such old-fashioned, full-service stores? Maybe even pictures?

Santa Fe Avenue, Salina, KS


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Jeff Adler , May 23, 2009; 06:55 p.m.

I grew up in NY and saw many camera stores come and go. These included the Camera Barn chain where I worked during the summers when I was in school, Willoughby-Peerless, Olden Camera, 32nd Street Camera Exchange, Minifilm, K&M, Spiratone in Manhattan and Flushing, Garden Camera, Competitive Camera, 47th Street Photo, Doi Camera, Wall Street Camera, Ken Hansen - when he had retail locations, Foto Cell - this store on 23rd Street on Manhattan had a fantastic collection of old cameras of almost every kind, Cambridge Camera. In my years in NJ I remember Clifton Camera, Gene Hacker and Teaneck Camera. The Gene Hacker location in Hackensack became an auto parts store and they moved to Englewood. That didn't last very long. I am lucky to be near Livingston Camera where I can get excellent C-41 processing and scanning/printing done. Unique Photo used to be in the next town over but is now a longer drive to Fairfield, NJ. Some of the cameras and other photo items I have collected have stickers in or on them from stores all over the country.

Andy Collins , May 23, 2009; 07:43 p.m.

Here in Indiana we had McJon's Camera stores throughout the 70s and into the 90s. During the 70s I was still a teen and wasn't as concerned with shopping for a camera as I was about getting my 126 cartridges developed, but as I got more into photography I began to appreciate those stores a lot. Sadly all of the McJon stores are gone now. When I visit my dad in South Holland, Illinois I'm amazed at the stores in the surrounding area there that I used to visit with him that have disappeared in the last 2-3 years. Fortunately for me my favorite camera shop of all time is thriving in Lafayette, Indiana, a mere 40 minutes from where I live and 10 minutes from my workplace. It's Berry's Camera and it's a top-notch, full service camera store that serves seasoned pros as well as budding novices. They carry a great assortment of used equipment as well as the latest digital gear, and I can buy batteries for my classics with no problem. Best of all, everyone that works there is an experienced photographer and can answer just about any question anyone has. I sometimes have to avoid the place however, because setting foot in there is a sure way to part with my hard earned cash; I'll find a reason to buy something .

Wendell Kelly , May 23, 2009; 07:45 p.m.

My favorite store was Sam's Camera Exchange in Getty Square in Yonkers, NY. I had to visit a dentist near there every couple of weeks and would stop by to get darkroom supplies - I'll bet that I spent $2 or $3 there every couple of weeks. I remember especially consulting the Kodak B&W printing paper book to select the 25/pack paper that was to be my next major purchase.

The other major camera store in that part of town was Yonkers Camera. When I went off to college I found e owner's son as a classmate - he was shooting with an Exakta attended my college, omly he and I graduated on time - I doubt the other graduated at all)

Dan B. , May 23, 2009; 08:38 p.m.

Davis Camera in Indianapolis. The first store I remember, in the early 1970s, was near Ben Davis High School and had a little narrow "showroom" that two people could barely fit into, between the glass display counter on one side and the display wall and shelves on the other side. They seemed to cram an awful lot of equipment and products into that little space. I worked on the school newspaper and yearbook at Ben Davis H.S., so I remember many a run there to get 100-foot rolls of Tri-X, chemicals (including some blue developer, the name of which I can't remember, that we used to push Tri-X to ungodly ASAs) and other goodies. While there I used to lust over the shiny new Canons, Nikons and other gear. I think most of Davis Camera's business actually was in repair, as I remember Mr. Davis almost always coming from the back shop with magnifying goggles on his head. While I was away at college second half of the '70s, Davis moved to another location, still on the west side of Indy, that was much larger. At that point, my good friend from high school, Allen Underwood, went to work there as a technician. I'm not sure if Davis Camera is even still around (I moved to Arizona in the mid-'80s), although I suspect the original owners are long gone.

John Shriver , May 23, 2009; 08:50 p.m.

Baker's Photo in the Tenleytown neighborhood on Wisconsin Ave. NW in Washington DC. What a great place. Gobs of old stock, all the film and paper you could imagine, etc. Lots of character. Industrial Photo in Silver Spring, MD was OK when travel time mattered.
Of course, all the great New York City stores, and their amazing junk bins, are all missed. Especially Olden, which sold me more Topcon gear than any other source. But all the big stores on 32nd Street were wonderful.
I'm very happy that I work across the street from the Cambridge, MA Calumet. Not interesting as a used camera store, but still the best inventory of refrigerated film.

L Mar , May 23, 2009; 09:00 p.m.

Central Camera in Chicago --- thankfully still open!

Taken with an all-plastic "Tazzycam," Fuji C-41 @ EI 400

tobey bilek , May 23, 2009; 09:08 p.m.

In 1965 when I was a Purdue student, Berrys was there. Also the one at university and main near the book store, but last time I was there it became a one hour photo only.

In downtown Lafayette, the was a really old store/semi studio, It was on the main street over the bridge east or west, can`t remember, I learned about Leicas there first. Those would be the old bridge replaced 10/15 years ago. Anyway store is gone.

Altmans in Chicago gone. Photo World gone Wolk Camera gone. Central still servives at Wabash and Jackson. Helix is almost gone.

William Kahn , May 23, 2009; 10:03 p.m.

Well, I'm old enough to remember when all camera stores were neighborhood shops, but only two stick in my mind: First is a camera shop in Nagoya, Japan in 1952, where this 12-year old kid used to go in an drool over the new Asahi Pentax SLRs. I'm sure I annoyed the hell out of the owner, but he was too polite to say anything. The other was a store in the Crenshaw district of LA which was on my walking route to school in 1954. That was when I was lusting after the Speed Graphics (who knows why.) All the rest kind of run together in my mind......

Kozma Prutkoff , May 23, 2009; 10:35 p.m.

I have not seen any other camera stores in my town but Ritz Camera. :(((

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