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A new path forward comes into focus for Peoria Camera Shop

Not too long ago, photographer Ava Kamm got quite a sales pitch from Peoria Camera Shop employees Ted Ray and Travis Carlson as she shopped for clearance items ahead of the store’s imminent closure.

“The guys that know me well because I come in all the time, they said, ‘Hey, you should buy the camera store,’” said Kamm. “So I looked into it. I did my research. It's a good little business, and here I am.”

Following the death of the previous owner, it appeared the business would be shuttered after 85 years in operation – until Kamm stepped forward.

“So many people love Peoria Camera Shop; there's a huge following,” she said. “It's been here since 1937, and everyone was so sad that it was going to close. So that plays a big part in why I wanted to purchase the business.”

A longtime customer who also runs the photography business Dog Anthology, Kamm had some idea of what she was getting into in buying the shop that originated downtown and moved to its current Metro Centre location in 1990.

“I know some about cameras. I know a lot about different products that go along with printing photos and canvases and all kinds of wall art. But I still have a lot to learn,” said Kamm, who is keeping Ray and Carlson on the staff and hopes to hire more employees.

“They are actually going to train me on how to do the printing, and they're going to teach me all about the intricacies of the different camera brands and everything. So I have a lot to learn, but I feel confident that I can learn it with Travis and Ted helping me out.”

Kamm said that although many people now take digital photos on their smart phones, there's still a place for a camera shop.

“The way that we have adapted is that we teach people how to take the pictures off their phone and have them printed, because I feel that the sad part about having the camera on your phone is that those digital pictures just stay there,” she said. “People need to print them and look at them and enjoy them. So I hope that people will come in and we can teach them how to do that.

“We get a lot of professional photographers that come in to purchase camera equipment, as well as just people hobbyists that love photography. There's so many things you cannot do with your camera phone that you need a real good camera to do what you want to do.”

New Peoria Camera Shop owner Ava Kamm, left, poses with longtime staff members Ted Ray and Travis Carlson. Kamm recently bought the 85-year-old business and hopes to have a grand reopening by the end of May.
Joe Deacon
New Peoria Camera Shop owner Ava Kamm, left, poses with longtime staff members Ted Ray and Travis Carlson. Kamm recently bought the 85-year-old business and hopes to have a grand reopening by the end of May.

She said traditional camera equipment is experiencing a bit of a resurgence in popularity.

“Actually, it's funny, film is coming back in style with a lot of younger people,” said Kamm. “They're really interested in film, and we do have a film developer – we're the only one in town that has a film developer. So I hope to promote that a lot and get people to realize they can come here, buy their film, and get it developed.”

The camera shop has been closed for a couple months as Kamm and her crew get prepared for the store’s next iteration, with some remodeling and painting. She said she’s also been getting vendor subscriptions renewed with equipment suppliers such as Nikon, Canon and Sony.

Kamm said the store will start offering printing services May 2 with plans to have the store fully running by the end of the month.

“I want to do a grand opening and invite all our favorite clients, and anybody else who wants to come, to come see how we've painted. We're trying to get things looking a little bit nicer,” she said.

Kamm said she hopes to grow the store’s customer base by adding more products and services, including photography classes.

“I want Peoria Camera Shop to be the one-stop place to come for all things photography,” said Kamm. “We have printing, we have cameras, we have all the equipment, and then I want to add an educational component to get people more excited about learning photography.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.