Saturday, January 03, 2015

My Fantasy Camera Store

Over the years, as the local camera  stores dwindled down to one, and then none (see my previous post), I and my photography friends would amuse ourselves with what we would do if we won the lotto and wanted to open a camera store, etc.   Obviously, it would require something like that, because nobody expects to make any money at it.  However, here are some main points to consider:
1. It should be a gathering place for people in the arts, and especially photographic arts.
2. Film and alt-process materials would be available.
3. C-41 Film lab with scanning services for 35mm and 120.
4. Used equipment for sale.
5. Coffee shop and gallery space included.
6. Darkroom/studio space.
some cleaning needed...

That's the short list, of course.  It doesn't have all the details in how the place would be operated.  It would have to find a niche and be a place that adds value to its customer base.  For one, such a place would offer a series of workshops from basic photography to specific techniques and methodology.

A library of sorts is a useful thing to have.  Especially when sipping a coffee.   The gallery space would rotate on a 60-day basis.   A coffee shop/photo store isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. Bookstores have been doing it for years.
Exhibit openings are a great place to be.
 Film is and will forever be a niche market.  Leave the digital thingamajigery to the online world.  We have great online resources, too for film, and one of those is well-known -- Free Style in California.  Another is the Film Photography Project store --  the other place to go for film, and in my opinion, a very cool place for film lovers.  However, if you want to  serve the local community, my fantasy store would be something like Leslie Lazenby's store in Findlay, OH.    Her store, Imagine That! serves the local college students in their photography class needs, and while requiring some extra work in assembling student kits, provides a real service and value for them.  It can be done in the Ann Arbor area, too, with WCC, EMU, UM, and various high schools.  Guess what?  There IS a demand to have film-based classes, and such a store could more readily enable that.
Cameras and coffee!

The darkroom and studio space could be rented, of course.   Studio space is especially necessary, as it frees people to try some projects and be creative without having to actually have to own a space and all the lighting that is necessary.

Beginner SLR
Used equipment would of course, be fairly priced somewhere in line between ebay and KEH prices.  Sometimes a $5 camera is just a $5 camera.  I suppose consignment sales would be an option, too. It's pretty tough for beginners to buy a film camera without some guidance.  There is no reason that a Nikon N65 and similar cheap Canon EOS cameras can't be used by beginners. Put them in Manual mode, and you are good.  The idea that they should use a Pentax K1000 is a myth.  Have them use a camera that is similar to the DSLRs that are out there.  Of course, having older cameras is also a good thing, but they are not always the best choice for a beginner.
Partnering with LOMO not a bad idea.

This fantasy store obviously can't be in a town with high rents like Ann Arbor. It would have to be in a place where the rent is cheaper and lots of unused downtown spaces.  Since this IS a fantasy store bought with Lotto winnings, I guess owning the building is a better choice.  Adrian, MI would be one such place, but closer to Ann Arbor would be better. Ypsilanti, perhaps.  It would have to be run by people that love photography, and are willing to do the outreach and build the customer base.  So, yes, it would require one to win the lottery to be able to finance this imaginary store.  Or else, it could be a co-operative venture, but that still takes money.

Anyhow, that's the bare bones of my fantasy photo store.  It's always fun to dream.  It takes hard work to make dreams a reality, and sometimes a bit of luck, too.

What would your fantasy store look like?

1 comment:

Jim Grey said...

My fantasy photo store would be much like yours, but would also process b/w on site.

It would also require an owner who wanted simply to make a modest (at best?) living doing this, because the reality is that in most places there won't be enough people to support it as a real growth company.

Oops, this is supposed to be fantasy; sorry to splash some reality on it.