Augusta's last camera store expected to close within weeks

Linda McFarland, an associate at Wolf Camera, helps customer Robert Heos. Wolf Camera is closing after its parent company did not survive Chapter 11 bankruptcy.



Augusta’s last camera store will shutter its doors sometime next month, leaving local camera enthusiasts only large retailers and the Internet to turn to.

Wolf Camera, on Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway, had its fate sealed when parent company Ritz Camera & Image failed to emerge from its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy in four years.

Ritz announced earlier this month that the company would sell all its assets. Augusta’s Wolf Camera is among 137 stores that will be closed by the liquidators that bought those assets at auction.

Wolf store Manager Keith Jones said he couldn’t say how much longer the store would stay open to sell the remaining inventory.

“The projected date is the middle of October, but it could go quicker or it could go longer,” Jones said.

The store employs four full-time and two part-time workers, he said, adding that about 1,300 employees nationwide will lose jobs from the closures.

Jones said that as some stores close, leftover inventory is being shipped to other stores that are performing better in moving merchandise. He had only a few cameras on the shelves Thursday.

“I may get more as they ship stuff to me,” he said. “I don’t know what it is until I open the boxes.”

Jones said Ritz wasn’t able to adapt to the loss of its film processing business as consumers and professionals embraced digital photography.

“They just couldn’t make the adjustments that the independents can,” he said. “The small independents (stores) are thriving.”

One such independent camera store – the last of its kind in the area – is Chris’ Camera Center on Laurens Street in Aiken.

Owner Chris Lydle said the transition from film to digital caused a major upheaval in the photography business.

“There were a lot of challenges with the switch from film to digital,” Lydle said. “The main revenue stream went away, which is photo finishing. That hurt a lot of people, particularly Ritz, since they started as a photo finisher.”

Lydle said he has expanded and diversified his business, offering photography classes, event photography and accessories that aren’t found at big chain retailers.

“We, being smaller, leaner and meaner, have continued to pay our bills, so we can keep a flow of merchandise going,” he said. “We are determined to stay in business even though it is tough.”