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Thursday, 13 March 2014


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While I am not surprised by the demise of photo retailers these days (how many are left?) I am surprised by Calumet's sudden, literally overnight, death. I had the impression that they had found a way to survive in the new world order. They had become the last man standing.

My salute to Calumet. Farewell.


Chapter 7 -- they're toast! Liquidation.

As usual the people who are least able to shoulder the mistakes of the fat cat corporate elite, the low paid employees, will get hit the hardest. My heart goes out to them.

Aw! I'm bummed. Philly store is 40 miles from me, but I tried to buy there whenever in the city. I think I'll hang onto their last catalog.

I assume that means that the remaining Penn Camera stores in the DC area will close. Once Penn was a good supply house,bbut from what I have heard lately, in its recent Calumet version it may hardly be missed. Too bad. Not much support left in this area.

Ah, yet another giant down, great news. The less crap we can buy the less crap is produced right!

Greets, Ed.

That's a shame. Their UK warehouse is just a couple of miles from where I live. They have a counter where you can buy things from the warehouse. They've always been very helpful and friendly and they are the nearest place to get many things that aren't available elsewhere.

...and the ashes of Zone VI. RIP.

Much experience with those old Calumet view cameras and Calumet, the store.

Calumet in Chicago was my main supplier for many many years..Very sad to hear that.

When it first opened a store in Chicago it seemed like the entire staff from the old Standard Photo Supply on Chicago Avenue moved over there..must have been a buyout of sorts..all the old faces were there and they slowly started to disappear over time..I think the ever present Howie was the one of the last to move on.

I used Helix quite a bit when they were in the River North area on Huron but after they moved to Adams and Racine it became difficult to trek there. The River North area was a real photo district, old school..studios everywhere and I was a freelance assistant in the 80's at studios all over that neighborhood..it was an actual community..bunch of E6 labs, Ross Ehlert, Gamma, Film Division et al..

I Started using Calumet when they were next to the River on Erie street and then they moved to the current Goose Island location..Whaddayaknow? A store actually moved closer to me..I could ride my bike there from my studio in less than 5 minutes. Perfecto. They were my main go to for rental equipment and everything else during my commercial days. Always had good experiences there and they always took great care of me and bent over backwards to accommodate me in a pinch.

I was in there a month or two ago to get some Paper..Bum me out with this news!

It would be worse if it was a locally owned company but they were a GOOD outfit, at least from my point of view.

Woah!!!! This really sucks! Unfortunately not too surprising in today's economy with competition like Amazon. I feared this might be the case when I stopped in to buy a circular polarizer and was told none in stock and no eta on when they might reorder.
Still with so few local dealers left, this absence will be felt by many, certainly here in the Chicago area.

Amazon and B&H strike again.

Ugh. That means the rest of my friends that were hanging on from the Penn years are out of a job now...

Been a foreigner I didn't catch well what this mean. Are bad time to sell photographic equipment? or only for sell analog equipment? I remember saw the advices of those names in 80 and first 90's inside photography magazines made in the US.

Sad. I remember their catalogs from years ago, that were as much educational as marketing. There was a time you could call and talk to a knowledgeable person on the telephone. I remember trying to decide which dry mounting press to buy and talking to a Calumet rep who then got manufacturers' reps on the call. They've changed, and I won't venture a rant about what went wrong, but I bemoan the loss of retailers who offer genuine expertise.

This stinks! I shop the Chicago location a lot. I have to say I'm not too surprised based on the dramatic reduction of inventory I have noticed in the past year.

The staff there was always the best in Chicago....way better than the clowns at Helix....who are also gone....Lets hope Don Flesh can hold on over at Central Camera.

We are getting what we deserve as consumers. Our addiction to cheap deals will leave most cities without a serious shop.

I own a Calumet tripod and always wanted a set of Travelites after using them back in school. It's a shame they couldn't survive and closed so abruptly.

Travelites are just rebranded Bowen products, so they are still sort of available.

I'm friends with a few folks who work at the DC area stores. I have a feeling this dropped on them like a ton of bricks. I was in there a week ago and there wasn't a hint of this.

F'ING sad.

Gonna be some miserable phone calls coming up.

Petapixel (link in comments above) carries an interview with a Calumet employee: it wasn't entirely a bolt from the blue for those who could read the signs.

What many people don't realize is that Calumet was ruined by the hiring of RITZ CAMERA EXECUTIVES. And we all know where Ritz ended up... TWICE. Coincidence?

Calumet closing means the loss of the last pro grade dealer in my area. Very sad to hear this news...

Regarding Zane's update and message up there: Recently, they tried creating a new website and failed miserably. They hired someone (Zane) to their Media department who had NO background or experience in the matter. They hired from within so they could pay them cheap instead of what an EXPERIENCED person deserves. The company was run HORRIBLY. This has been the Ritz way. Dustin and Gabe ruined what was left of the company as well.

I didn't even realize Calumet had locations in multiple cities; I thought of them as a Chicago store.

Never dealt with them, though. I've been using B&H since about when they appeared, and Porter's Camera store for a while there (for chemistry and paper and accessories and such, not the big-bucks items), both far before the public Internet. From what I saw from catalogs Calumet was expensive, and not really oriented strongly towards 35mm shooters, so they weren't my supplier.

There are two things a physical camera store must have to survive: stock and service. They must have items in stock so people can see them, buy them on the spot and bring them out with them. Still, some people will just go and have a look, and then buy a bit cheaper online. But nothing much can be done about this. From the employee interview in Petapixel, it sounded like both stock and service started to run down long before the closure. When a shop wants to charge $100 for service, like choosing and using a camera, it is a sign of desperation. This is another Kodak moment. When people stopped using film, they did not have a regular need to go to a camera store to buy and process more film. Less customers means less turnover and it becomes hard to keep many items in stock.

I used to go to Calumet for my darkroom supplies all the time plus I bought their Traveler G Rapid lighting system and other equipment and attended a few of their free one night seminars. Most of their counter people were great at giving you the answers you were looking for. Once I stopped using my wet darkroom I stopped going there. I haven't been there in at least 12 years but my heart sank anyways when I read this blog post. I miss browsing the showrooms of both Calumet and Darkroom Aids back in the '80s and '90s.

Have to say, hiring Ritz people to "save" Calumet was a huge mistake! If it was me, I would have put one "hyper-professional" store in each large city, with rental departments, rental studios, and post-processing services for professionals in each facility; and maybe even a coffee shop/deli, and photo related gallery. Buying up all those little semi-pro stores didn't make sense, even when they did it.

Having worked at large corporations in retail, it's amazing to me how many times they hire management from "failed" stores to come in and help them. I asked a VP one time what the deal was, and he said, "...they have experience in managing stores under crisis and they know how to do a chapter 11/13 shut down and reorg...". Doesn't sound like sound business practices to me, but hindsight is 20/20!

I used to buy at Calumet in Belfast they had a guy who was helpful. Then he left. Then I wanted an L lens but it wasn't in stock so I asked them to find out when it might be available. After a while no news and I decided to look elsewhere. I ordered from B&H. The Lens arrived 3 days later. STill no news from Calumet. So B&H in NY left Calumet in Belfast eating the dust. Some businesses just take a long time to wither away.

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