Ritz Camera store in Naples, rest of U.S. closing

Corey Perrine/Staff 
 Peter Comolli helps Kathy Stone find a place who will transfer tape to compact disc Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, at Ritz Camera in Naples, Fla. Comolli has worked at the store for over 11 years. The nation-wide camera store, that started as a studio in 1918 in Atlantic City, N.J. has supplied America since 1936, when Benjamin and Edward Ritz opened the first Ritz film-processing lab in Washington, D.C., is finally closing its doors. During its height, It acquired other businesses it bought out including Wolf Camera, Kits Cameras, InkleyÄôs, The Camera Shop, Inc., Cameras West, PROEX and Boaters World. However, with the decline in film, online business and competition the company struggled toward its end and filed for chapter 11 a second time Sept 2012. The Naples location will remain open to around last week in October liquidating all its assets. "It's sad to see it shut down because it's really needed in Naples," Comolli said. "We have a lot come in and say, 'What do we do now?'"

Photo by COREY PERRINE, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Corey Perrine/Staff Peter Comolli helps Kathy Stone find a place who will transfer tape to compact disc Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, at Ritz Camera in Naples, Fla. Comolli has worked at the store for over 11 years. The nation-wide camera store, that started as a studio in 1918 in Atlantic City, N.J. has supplied America since 1936, when Benjamin and Edward Ritz opened the first Ritz film-processing lab in Washington, D.C., is finally closing its doors. During its height, It acquired other businesses it bought out including Wolf Camera, Kits Cameras, InkleyÄôs, The Camera Shop, Inc., Cameras West, PROEX and Boaters World. However, with the decline in film, online business and competition the company struggled toward its end and filed for chapter 11 a second time Sept 2012. The Naples location will remain open to around last week in October liquidating all its assets. "It's sad to see it shut down because it's really needed in Naples," Comolli said. "We have a lot come in and say, 'What do we do now?'"

— After 20 years of developing pictures, Ritz Camera & Image in Naples will soon shutter its doors.

Ritz Camera & Image LLC, a Beltsville, Md.-based photography retailer, was once the largest U.S. chain of specialty camera shops. The Naples store, 2150 U.S. 41 N., in the Gateway of Naples shopping plaza, is one of 137 nationally that will close at the end of the month.

No exact date has been set.

Customer Jack Rossi of North Naples said he visits the store about once week.

"It's been like a second home for me," he said.

In recent years, consumers began favoring digital cameras that allow home printing and online photo-sharing. Also, many consumers own smartphones equipped with cameras.

With the increase of digital technology and online competition, the corporate-owned store filed for bankruptcy in June.

Ritz Camera & Image won court permission to liquidate after failing to find a buyer willing to keep the business and its remaining 137 stores open.

This is the second time the company filed for bankruptcy. The store initially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009 but couldn't find a buyer.

The founding family failed for the second time in three years to turn around the 94-year-old retailer.

Naples store manager Chuck Smith said fact that customers are able to print and buy cameras online and use phones to take pictures are among the reasons why the company is going out of business. In addition, people are printing less digital photographs.

"All those factors have made it very difficult for our company to keep going," said Smith.

However, Smith said the Naples store was doing very well.

Since the company declared bankruptcy in June, Smith said, additional stores closed in July, including the store in Coconut Point mall in Estero.

The company had about 1,960 employees when it filed for bankruptcy in June. The Naples store has seven employees.

"It's brutal" said Smith, who has been an employee of Ritz Camera for six years, more than one year managing the Naples store.

"Personally, I will be OK, but I have people in the shop that have worked in print shops and camera shops for more than 20 years and there is nothing more in town that they can go to. I'm really worried about some people that I have on my staff. I'm really worried about what they are going do."

Smith said about five stores will remain open in the country.

Today, Ritz Camera's website says they will reopen under new management Nov. 1. Smith said somebody bought the rights for the domain name online.

Ritz Camera held an auction Sept. 6, designed to either sell the company as a going concern, or sell the right to liquidate the chain through going-out-of-business sales.

Rossi said he visits the store to get his film developed, receive shooting photography tips and look at new products. The amateur photographer said staff has been very patient, helpful and knowledgeable in showing him how to shoot better pictures.

"I'm really saddened to think that they are going to close the camera store," said Rossi, who has been visiting the store for five years. He added that he doesn't know of any other camera store nearby.

"Not only am I going to miss their expertise but also their friendship," Rossi said.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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