Crown Camera gets new life from photo and video services

When a camera store goes out of business, the loss can leave a big hole in a community. That’s the case when Redding, Calif., institution Crown Camera announced its closure after more than 60 years in the business. Eighty-five-year old founder Gary Engell chose to close down the retail store but the services side of the business lives on as Crown Photo and Video.

Engell’s son, Jeff, and another employee, Theresa Wood, said the demand for photo services was so strong, the pair became business partners. The revitalized business is located in a section of the former Crown Camera building, with an entrance at 1360 Tehama. Wood said once the closure of Crown Camera – an award-winning fixture in the Redding, Calif., downtown merchant community – was made public, the reaction was of disbelief.

“There is no one like us left in the area,” says Wood. “People panicked, and started bringing in these big scanning orders.”

After much discussion and planning, Wood and Jeff Engell decided to keep the services business open in a smaller capacity, selling off unnecessary equipment and maintaining a much smaller store footprint.

“Jeff was always in favor of trying to keep the store open, and we decided to make it partnership,” says Wood, adding Engell focuses on video and film transfer services; one of the offerings are memorial slideshows and DVDs. Wood as expertise in photo organizing, through the partnership of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers and the Independent Photo Imagers (IPI).

While Crown Photo and Video will do some on-site printing, the business will rely heavily on its IPI connections for outsourcing services and more.

“Because we are IPI members, we can utilize other members for outlab services,” says Wood, adding Crown will also use IPI’s MSP and social-media marketing services.

Jeff Engell advises other photo retailers to reevaluate their product mix, as relying too heavily on hardware sales can lead to disaster. “When we started having difficulties with the camera store, the failure in the industry was the manufacturers were doing,” claims Engell, citing this article from PetaPixel about the seemingly unsurmountable challenged faced by camera stores. “They were lowering our margins and forcing a rebate program. You’d think selling cameras and camera gear are the big-ticket items.”

He adds, instead of “playing the game of following the manufacturers and the rebate programs,” photo stores should focus on profit centers offered by services.

Wood adds there will continue to be a growing interest in photography services, especially younger consumers who are intrigued by film.