As a kid, I grew up in a town the locals called Nerk, Ahia. We even had T-Shirts made up.
It was kind of funny, because a lot of Newscasters come from our neck of the woods because we supposedly have little or no accents. But just 35 miles from Columbus, it was a pretty great little town to grow up in...
As a kid we rode our bikes downtown, hit O'Koon's drug store (now a Wallgreens) for comic books and a Fanta Orange Pop for a dime (we call it pop around here, not soda). While my friends went over to Woolworth's to look at Baseball and Football cards, I continued around the square to my favorite place to spend time. Hall & Son's. On the postcard above, you would walk past the Midland Theater, to the end of the block and take a right. First shop you came to. It was the only camera store in the small town back then. Later, Tim Black, the photographer for the local newspaper, The Advocate, worked there. He and David Hume Kennerly were my photography idols. I'd grab some film for the old Bell & Howell my dad gave me and try to pick Tim's brain as much as I could without hopefully annoying him. As I grew older and bolder (16?), I started asking questions about darkrooms, and the mystical and financially out of reach SLR.
I spent a lot of time and my paper route money in that store, mainly on film. Later when I started college I would go down there for used darkroom equipment, paper and chemicals. Tim told me about buying film in bulk and I would soon start loading my own cartridges. Unfortunately I must have been ahead of my time, because when it came time to buy that mystical SLR (Canon AE-1) with high school graduation money and some hard earned cash, I went to the back of a Popular Photography magazine and ordered it from New York to save $100. It took a lot of slinging hamburgers at Burger Chef to make $100 back then. I did spend my savings on a used 50mm and leather Canon holster locally. I felt I owed them that much.
Mail order and now the Internet has made things tough on the Brick and Mortar camera store. I read a post where one store was charging $30 to demo a camera, because so many people came in to handle and test a camera, even asked the owner to jot down some of the things he trained them on, then went online to buy it. In this digital age where we're not stopping in weekly for film, paper, chem and prints, the foot traffic is dropping, and the camera stores are going away.
I left Newark over dozen years ago. Last time I was back, I drove around the square, and was saddened to see that Hall & Sons was gone (and a little amazed by the growing number of Tattoo Parlors!). That trip evoked this post, and a plea. Support your local camera store! If they can't match the cost of your mystical dream camera, see what they can offer to sweeten the deal. If they don't stock that latest, greatest light modifier you've been reading about on this blog, see if they can get it. It never hurts to ask...
If you've made it this far down my memory lane, I guess I should make full disclosure. A few years ago, when the economy tanked, I found myself unemployed. A local camera store chain offered me a job in their corporate headquarters. Yep, that local camera store means local jobs. Yet another reason to support them and keep them around!