When the late Bob Biggs opened the Camera Store Plus in the spring of 1972, he didn’t know how long it would last.
Last week, he would have had his answer.
After more than 27 years at the northwest corner of Scott Street and Portage Avenue, the Camera Store Plus will officially close August 31.
Bright neon-coloured signs advertising the final closing sale hang in all the windows. You can get 20 percent off accessories and even more off camera bags, but all are of little consolation to Biggs’ daughter, and present owner, Janey Biggs.
“The whole thing is very sad,” said Biggs. “I know there is a need. . .but not enough.”
Biggs saw the invitable end a few years ago when photo finishing became a one hour phenomenon. The store offered one-and-a-half day service but that wasn’t fast enough.
It’s not that the local economy is on a downturn, by most reports the town is doing well. In fact, next door there is a “help wanted” sign in the front window of Garton’s Jewellers. Biggs explains the store’s demise as part of a growing trend toward bigger retailers offering more services under one roof.
“There is more one stop shopping now, people want to but their film get it processed and buy whatever all in same place,” she explained. “We are in a very rushed society and people want their photos in an hour.”
“Specialty shops are almost a thing of the past. I think we are being gobbled up by the big places,” she charged. “There [used to be] more specialty shops, where everybody did their own thing.”
“When we first came here nobody else sold film or did processing.”
Lori Golab from Thunder Bay and spends her summers at the family cottage near here. She has been coming to the the Camera Store Plus for 15 years.
“I was very shocked. When I pulled up with my mother I said ‘This can’t be!’” she replied. “Outside of Gagné’s, this is only quality place where you can have older negatives developed or framing done.”
The Camera Store started in what used to be the Clinic Pharmacy, now the Pharmasave. Bob Biggs sold and developed film in a small corner of the store. He soon realized a market for his services and decided to open the Camera Store Plus just across and down the street.
After a heart attack in 1977, Janey took over. Her dad died a year later making her the manager. After 13 years at the helm, she bought the store outright from her mother in 1990.
Biggs has a diploma in photography from Red River College in Winnipeg and ran a commercial photgraphy studio above the store for a couple of years. She no longer runs the studio or takes commercial pictures, but has taught photography at Confederation College for a number of years.
At one time the store was staffed with three full-time employees and two more part-time. Now there are only two--Janey and salesperson Diane Matteson.
“It’s sad. . .we were taking turns going to the back and crying,” Matteson said, adding that she is now looking for work.
Biggs said she “wouldn’t be pounding the pavement” looking for another career but is not sure what she’ll do. She only said she still had some options but wants the store to be remembered for its “personalized service with a smile.”