Article Camera Shops

Local camera shops, is there still a place?

I heard recently that the owner of my local camera shop is looking to retire. According to this article on Rock River Current he’s soon to be 67 so that makes sense. I wish him well!

Tom’s father Bob had purchased Camera Craft in 1966, so for its current run the shop has been in their family for effectively two generations. That’s a lot of built up knowledge and expertise.

Here is a statement in the Rockford Current article about the shop’s overall age:

“Camera Craft has enjoyed an excellent reputation in our community for nearly 100 years, and it is due to a long list of dedicated team members over the years who are passionate about photography and sharing their expertise with our customers,” he said.

Tom Brady

Before them it looks like the shop had been around a long time. Impressive longevity! I do personally remember going to their Edge Brook location a few times many years ago.

In a local photographer group, Tom made a post about what he would like to get out of the exchange.

Hi everyone, first I want to say thank you for your friendship and support over the years, I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve you!

2020 was not a good year for Camera Craft, and many businesses around the world, due to the pandemic, but we came roaring back in 2021 … and 2022 was our best and most profitable year in our 100 year history! I would love to see the store carry on, as our community needs a camera store and can easily support a camera store … and at the same time provide a very comfortable living to the owner(s) thanks to you.

Time is running very short to close a deal and I’ve priced the store to move at a bargain price! For the cost of my inventory, plus $25k. Currently my inventory (all current and relevant) is $150k. In addition, you would need approximately $50k in the bank to cover your monthly operating expenses, which includes inventory purchases throughout the month, as well as covering rent, utilities and payroll. That total to own Camera Craft is just $225k for a very profitable business and a turnkey operation, with everything in place, with revenue from day one from an established and loyal customer base. In addition to my significant $$$ take home the past two years, the store had a profit of well over $80k each of the past two years.

Opportunities like this are few and far between. If this sounds interesting to you. Please reach out to me right away to discuss further.

email: or call the store to arrange an appointment 815.877.FOTO (3686)

Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Tom Brady – Owner

a Facebook photographers group post by Tom Brady

So $175,000 to the current owner and an estimation of $50,000 that the new owner would need to keep the business going for a month. At face value it looks “turnkey”, but I don’t think it would be that simple. There are so many services and interactions necessary that I imagine go into keeping it working and not sure they would translate to a new owner. Having at least an extra month of financial leeway would probably be a good idea. So at least more like $300,000. All that said I have a lot of respect for Tom! Insurance, lawyer, accountant, industry contacts, purchasing, customers calling him for tech support according to that Rock River Current article (ehhh… the joys of a service orientated business I guess), and a multitude of other things I assume he juggles.

Its possible his last two years of profit came from two long term employees quiting and Tom not refilling all of that staffing gap, but I’m just guessing. I know nothing about running that type of business so pure speculation.

Is this something I’d be interested in?

The general idea looks somewhat appealing to me, but I’m more interested in my ideas on the marketing side rather than actually running the business and dealing with customers all of the time. Sure, you potentially hire people to help, but that will depend on financials and is its own type of delegation skill that needs to be formed.

I don’t know if I’d enjoy the day to day of that type of work. I honestly think it’s more suited toward one of the long time managers at the shop, David, which had moved on from working there not too long ago. He has the first-hand knowledge and skills already built up to keep the business working properly.

I’ve taken risks for a long time now with my entrepreneurial attempts and my health due to lack of stable insurance. I’ve also sacrificed the potential of relationships, kids, and related life things normal people do. At least on the work side of things this has actually resulted in a double gotcha lack of funds lately because I haven’t done programming work for a few years now. I’ve basically been burning the buffer I had and also didn’t react properly to this recent recession while getting caught by the Celsius Network CH11 bankruptcy too. What I think I’m trying to say is I’m tired and not sure I’m up for this as a solo attempt.

For examples of how I work, look at all of my passion based time investments that haven’t yet financially paid off enough like the ~850 videos on my main YouTube channel, IG, TikTok, Amazon, FB, Programming (Videos), TECH Reviews, and other recent efforts among various other failed attempts throughout the years. Plus things like old stock photos, books (electronic & PoD), and more I don’t even want to link like fast food video reviews and cosplay/crafting videos, haha. I’m pretty adept at not creating actual monetary value from my work and being too giving with my time like my free cosplay photography I’ve done even longer than my video work and could charge cosplayers for.

I’m not in debt at least, but certainly don’t have anywhere near what he’s asking for. I don’t know the ins and out of business debt, but that’s an unappealing route even if a bank would actually offer me a $300,000 loan. Interest on that amount of money is an added burden to the entire attempt too.

My plans lately have been to double down on my Photography Banzai video work with an emphasis on Amazon because I make more money there, in addition to getting back into programming. Computers and software development is another huge skill set I invested a lot of time into. I’ve been bad at using this knowledge lately, but it’s still there and I can still work on it. AI and machine learning has reinvigorated my interest lately. Again, that brings me back to if I want to take on the type of work a camera shop would require or move back into computers to get things back on track? I’m not sure.

I made a quick vertical video post testing the waters to see if my current viewership on YouTube, IG Reels, and TikTok finds the idea of following this journey interesting to them. I’d try to produce a mix of videos plus experiment with live streaming at the shop. So far not much traction besides comments from people I know personally. Usually with things like this its you have to take the risk and do the work before anyone cares. I get it. I’m used to that.

I’ve put so much into my online video work that there must be people that I’ve helped that would

want to directly return the favor? Probably only a few but I wanted to check, so I made that video. My main YouTube channel just turned 12 and has had around 5.9 million views. Around 490k views per year on average. In the land of internet video it’s not that much. It’s possible not a whole lot of people know and care about my work currently. I see that in the lack of comments I receive on my YouTube videos. Reach is so vital in online based work like video. That’s why I’ve been pushing in IG Reels and TikTok which I think has started to help.

There are great examples of this general idea happening with the “Pink Gorilla” retro game shops (they now have 3) where one of the owners streams working at the shop (also has a small YouTube channel). The other owner has a decent sized YouTube channel. Though I will attribute some of their popularity to their connection with a large YouTuber which is how I learned about them.

The other streamer I found recently owns a not-for-profit animal sanctuary called Alveus and streams the day to day work there. Though, I think that has a lot more appeal than anything I could come up with revolving around a camera shop. Who doesn’t love watching animals? She’s super smart and good at all the business side and the marketing side! Going as far as putting a tiny house she lives in on the sanctuary to make that vast amount of work more manageable.

There are video-on-demand examples of camera shops that run YouTube channels such as “The Camera Store” in Alberta Canada. They’ve got a decent sized audience but the channel hasn’t grown like other ones I’ve seen after their two most popular employees that ran the channel moved on to DPReview. TCS TV’s current monthly views are only around twice what I’m getting on my channel and they have at least three people working on it.

Then there’s of course the two huge east coast shops B&H Photo Video and Adorama. Along with smaller channels like London Camera Exchange and Grays of Westminster. Considering LCE and GoW’s current size, simply being a camera shop and creating decent content isn’t enough to garner a large audience.

If I were to do this as a full owner or partial owner I’d definitely not use any of my current social media for the shop besides cross promotion, so the shop efforts would have to start from scratch.

I think my ideal situation would be as a minority owner focusing on what I’m best at while the majority owner would be the one with skills relevant to running the shop well from the start. I would learn and do all of that too, of course, but my main focus would be on skills I’ve already built up like video, technology, camera knowledge, and marketing/social media.

All that said, I saw the mention of the camera shop’s profitably in 2021 and 2022, but I don’t know how viable small local camera shops are into the future. I’d have to look at the actual numbers and dive into research. I do see and feel the struggle from the online video side on the topic of photography. Video has taken up the slack to keep dedicated cameras relevant, but completely valid general purpose tools like smartphones are always getting better and better.

There will likely be a limit to how much of creative work that a multi-purpose tool like a smartphone can take over simply based on appearances. What wedding photographer could get jobs if they shoot on their iPhone? lol. But I don’t know how large that market actually is. Maybe it’s already shrunk as small as it will ever be but maybe not.

Ways to supplement under a shrinking market could be getting into online sales which Camera Craft doesn’t do. Doing online marketing and outreach like streaming and video-on-demand. Making connections with younger potential customers (aka. The TikTok generation) and showing them the benefits of a dedicated tool.

It’s all interesting to think about at least. Though, like I said, I don’t think I’d want to attempt taking on Camera Craft solo and there isn’t much time to decide.

It’s not like I couldn’t start up a little shop in the future too. I was talking to a local small business owner of an anime and comic merch shop recently and in his area I bet the rent is a lot cheaper. He was looking for someone to move in next to him to create a synergy or sorts. Maybe not specifically or all camera gear, but I could see some form of tech and creativity products working. A creative artist store? So a mix of cameras and traditional media that could appeal to anime enthusiasts. Throw some imported packaged snacks and drinks into the mix and it might have similar appeal, haha.