PEORIA — Local photographer Ava Kamm bought a bit more than she planned when she went to check out the clearance sale at Peoria Camera Shop earlier this year.
Kamm, whose work includes portraits, real estate photos and the dogs of Peoria, stopped in to look for camera tripods and other equipment after the family of late owner Bill Dobbins announced the store’s 84-year run would end after Dobbins’ death.
“The guys that worked there told me I should buy the camera shop,” she told the Journal Star. “I thought it actually sounded kind of fun, then I did the research and figured out how it could all work. … Turns out, it’s a great little business.”
Peoria Camera Shop first opened in downtown Peoria in 1937, moving from Monroe Street to Main Street, then shifting to the Metro Centre in 1990.
As a longtime customer, Kamm knew she wanted to continue the store’s sales of cameras and equipment, as well as prints of photographs. But after reopening later this month, she said she plans to add extra offerings to appeal to a broader range of customers. That includes offering more photography classes and some workshops for photographers, she said.
She also hopes to hire one more full-time employee and add a part-time worker. She said she has already hired back the store’s two longtime employees.
“They really are invested in the company. They want to see it grow, and they love working here,” Kamm said.
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The space has been closed for about six weeks for renovations. Kamm hopes to reopen the photograph-printing side of the business by month’s end, targeting April 25 for a soft opening. She acknowledged it could take a little longer to bring back camera and equipment inventory. But, she hopes, it should be in by the start of local photographers’ “busy season” that includes graduations and summer weddings.
She plans to set aside part of the shop space for a photo studio, in part to continue her work photographing area canines and featuring rescue dogs but also to offer on a rental basis to other photographers who don’t have their own studio space.
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Kamm is relieved she came into the store when she did.
“They almost had given up and accepted that they weren’t going to find a buyer,” she said. “The stars just aligned.”
This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Peoria Camera Shop plans to reopen in Metro Centre with new owner