University Camera in Iowa City closing after nearly a half centu - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

University Camera in Iowa City closing after nearly a half century in business

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

One of the few stores left of its kind in the state of Iowa will soon be closing its doors after nearly a half century in business.

Since 1970, University Camera has been a storefront fixture in downtown Iowa City.  It would have been one month away from being in business for 48 years when it closes up shop on April 15.

Roger Christian was an off-and-on employee for the better part of 13 years before he and his wife took over ownership in 1984.

Where business was once doing well, Christian said it has been on a slow and steady decline.

"Small retail is in trouble everywhere. It's not necessarily a surprising thing. We had our most disaster month in October and just decided that was just the trigger point and it was time [to close]," Christian said.

On Wednesday, employees inside University Camera were busy cleaning and preparing one of its photo processors for sale. On January 15, the store will stop processing orders before it closes for good. Christian said the store can no longer compete with online retailers, like Amazon and other big businesses.

"Pricing and so on for equipment, we have no way to compete with that. We could dump $100,000 a year into a website and never make a dent, for example. It makes it very, very difficult without real continuous local support to make enough money to stay in business and continue operate the way we had before," Christian said.

As Christian has witnessed the way businesses operate has changed over the years, he's also seen firsthand the change in camera technology.

"In my lifetime, we've seen it pretty much all," he said.

For consumers, he said the digital age has made it easier on people to get into photography. He said, though there's still a great interest in film photography among his customers, less people are in need of their overall services.

"A lot of our job over the course of the last 48 years has been education at the counter, one-on-one with the costumers answering the questions, supplying materials," Christian said.

University Camera's closure isn't alone in the state. Currently, there are only nine small business camera stores in the state. After University Camera closes, it will make it eight. In Dubuque, Everything Photography is also closing after only five years in business. That brings it down to only seven. The remaining two in all of eastern Iowa is Photo Pro in Cedar Rapids and The Camera Corner, Inc. in Davenport.

"We have the last fully standard photographic lab in all of Johnson County. The next closest north is in Cedar Rapids, and to the south it's 250 miles to St. Louis," Christian said.

Though he's looking forward to retirement, Christian said it's bittersweet. He had hopes that someone could buy the store and keep it running, but it wasn't an option.

"It's been a good run, and I think we're exiting as graciously as possible, and we hope people remember us well," Christian said.

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