Greg's Camera & 1-Hour Photo no longer belongs to Greg.
Longtime employee Paul Kitzmiller bought the store from former owner Greg Lussky March 4. He plans to maintain Greg's products and services, while establishing more of a community among customers by offering classes and club meet-ups.
Kitzmiller knows the photo store is a dying breed, but is confident about Greg's future. It's a small, resilient enterprise, he said, that thrives on the eagerness of hobbyists who like face time and chatter before buying cameras and equipment.
Kitzmiller said his two full-time employees know their business lives by customer service, so they do all they can to make shoppers happy.
That service has been enough to turn 71-year-old Ted Fleming into a longtime customer. He's bought five cameras from Greg's over the years.
"I'm very pleased with those cameras, and I'm very pleased with dealing with the folks there," Fleming said, adding that he could buy cameras cheaper via mail-order by avoiding sales tax, but prefers to buy from Greg's because he wants to stay local.
But there's also more a physical store can offer.
"It's always the personal touch," Fleming said. "I still prefer to see somebody face-to-face. It's very convenient. We're just very lucky it's here in the northwest."
Since Lussky opened the store in 1981, Greg's has evolved with the times. In addition to selling cameras and accessories, Greg's processes photos, converts old home movies to digital formats and takes passport and immigration photos.
Photographer Steve Dell (stevedellphotography.com) has shopped at Greg's for nearly 10 years. He said he finds the store and its employees helpful to his profession.
"Certainly the convenience, and the ability to put my hands on a camera" keeps him going to the shop, he said.
Dell, 63, said one of the reasons Greg's thrives is because "they have knowledgeable people on the floor who are willing to help either the novice or the professional."
Taking over the shop came naturally to Kitzmiller, 33, who grew up in Seattle before moving here with his wife, Lainie, who attended the University of Arizona. They have two children, a 4-year-old boy and an infant girl.
"This is the sort of thing I've always done," he said. "Since I was 14 years old, I've always worked in camera stores. It's obviously a difficult business, compared to what it used to be. But this store has always done well at helping people out, finding the right products. It's a case where most of the hobbyists are not necessarily people who all they care about is prices. We figure out what they want and then help them down the road."
Kitzmiller said the shop caters to photography enthusiasts with discerning tastes - the sorts of customers who aren't happy with cellphones for capturing images or machines at big box stores processing their images.
"There are people who are satisfied just using their phone" to take pictures, Kitzmiller said. "Even hobbyists do it, and I use my phone to shoot some things. But people who specifically go out to shoot landscape photographs or events still certainly care about image quality, and they are who we are certainly trying to cater to."
Early retirees, in particular, make up much of Greg's customer base. Those with newfound time to indulge their lingering passion for photography, Kitzmiller said, seem to flock to Greg's.
"When they retire they've been thinking about (photography) the last 30 years," Kitzmiller said. "They'll get a nice camera and get into taking pictures."
If you go
• What: Greg's Camera & 1-Hour Photo.
• Where: 6336 N. Oracle Road.
• Hours: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.
• Phone: 297-9080.
• Online: www.gregscameraonline.com
Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or firstname.lastname@example.org