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View Full Version : Calumet is done for good



Randy Moe
26-Jan-2016, 18:24
https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20160126/lincoln-park/calumet-photos-last-3-shops-close-ending-run-that-began-1939

The last gasp effort wasn't good enough.

I still wonder where they threw all the parts from the huge warehouse.

Andrew O'Neill
26-Jan-2016, 19:04
I thought they died a long time ago...

Kuzano
26-Jan-2016, 19:17
They started some time ago.... but they had a lot of stuff to unload.

Wayne
26-Jan-2016, 19:20
Bummer...use to be a regular customer. Their catalog was the best. Wish I still had one but I'd probably just cry all over it

David Karp
26-Jan-2016, 19:56
Too bad. They brought us many Caltars and other wonderful things.

Ken Lee
26-Jan-2016, 20:02
How sad.

My first view camera was a 4x5 Calumet, purchased in their store in the Empire State Building in NYC, way back when.

Oren Grad
26-Jan-2016, 20:03
Calumet was gone with the bankruptcy. What just closed was three Ritz Camera stores masquerading as Calumet.

Sirius Glass
26-Jan-2016, 21:10
It has been a long slow slide down hill. I only bought one thing from them years ago and their price was higher than everyone else in Los Angeles. In Virginia I used Penn Photo until they got bought by Calumet about the time I retired and started living full time in Los Angeles.

Randy Moe
26-Jan-2016, 22:23
But 4 years ago, I could bike 2 miles and buy NOS C1 parts. And any film I wanted from the huge fridge. Then Helix went, then...

I gotta get to Central Camera this week!

peter schrager
27-Jan-2016, 01:24
they killed Fidelity; Zone VI; and countless other businesses that they bought..gee who would have thought??
goodbye Calumet...and watch the door so it don't kick you in the ass on the way out!!
I rather say I miss Lens and Repro; now that was a fun place
best, peter

BrianShaw
27-Jan-2016, 07:30
Bummer...use to be a regular customer. Their catalog was the best. Wish I still had one but I'd probably just cry all over it

Ditto. I'm sure I still have a catalogue or two. I'd mail you one but the tear stains might make it difficult to read.

Bob Salomon
27-Jan-2016, 07:47
I thought they died a long time ago...

They did, C&A marketing, the company that bought Ritz out of their bankruptcy assets also bought Calumet out of their bankruptcy assets. C&A has been closing down stores like the Camera World and Calumet stores recently.

IanG
27-Jan-2016, 08:18
Calumet is alive and thriving as is Cambo, the US side may have gone but in Europe there's been no changes and they were never in difficulties. They are still the largest UK Pro dealer with quite a few stores here as well as in Gernany, Holland, Ireland etc and the Cambo - Calumet link is still there.

Ironically while Calumet were declining in the US they consolidated in Europe merging with competitors.

Ian

Oren Grad
27-Jan-2016, 08:32
Calumet is alive and thriving as is Cambo, the US side may have gone but in Europe there's been no changes and they were never in difficulties. They are still the largest UK Pro dealer with quite a few stores here as well as in Gernany, Holland, Ireland etc and the Cambo - Calumet link is still there.

Ironically while Calumet were declining in the US they consolidated in Europe merging with competitors.

Before they lost their way, what made Calumet special for our purposes was that they continued to serve the large format market, including providing service and maintaining stocks of parts for many large format cameras long discontinued. Does Calumet in the UK have that, or have they become just another digital camera retailer? I've looked at calphoto.co.uk, and other than the apparent ability to special-order anything from the current Cambo catalog, I don't see much evidence.

BTW, I'm not arguing that Calumet in Europe has made the wrong business decision by going with the flow, if that is indeed the case; just underlining what's been lost.

Kirk Gittings
27-Jan-2016, 08:33
But 4 years ago, I could bike 2 miles and buy NOS C1 parts. And any film I wanted from the huge fridge. Then Helix went, then...

I gotta get to Central Camera this week!

ditto, but this summer!

IanG
27-Jan-2016, 08:53
Before they lost their way, what made Calumet special for our purposes was that they continued to serve the large format market, including providing service and maintaining stocks of parts for many large format cameras long discontinued. Does Calumet in the UK have that, or have they become just another digital camera retailer? I've looked at calphoto.co.uk, and other than the apparent ability to special-order anything from the current Cambo catalog, I don't see much evidence.

BTW, I'm not arguing that Calumet in Europe has made the wrong business decision by going with the flow, if that is indeed the case; just underlining what's been lost.

Calumet have a film and darkroom side including LF film. As for LF equipment that's always been a smaller market here in the UK and they specialise in Cambo LF camerasas you'd expect because of the ownership links.

There was no tradition of amateur/hobbyist photographers in the UK and Europe (after WWII) shooting LF until probably the late 1990s and the appearance of a lot of second had LF equipment on Ebay and on dealers shelves. Consequently it was proportionally a much smaller market, we did have a handful of independent retailers who specialised in LF but they've moved more towards digital.

Ian

Drew Wiley
27-Jan-2016, 09:15
They were nice for studio supplies, and at one point were a convenient local option for large format film too. Overall they just didn't play their cards right. If you
give up your specialty niche and just offer what everyone else does, then there is no other card to play than price, which they didn't understand either. Then when they dropped the ball on Zone VI, that was another red flag that whoever was in charge didn't understand the importance of offering something unique, then backing it in the long haul. If you just want to provide a digital studio presence, well, that's an extremely competitive game because it crosses over into electronics distribution. B&H was far better than them at that. And Freestyle was getting their game plan worked out when it came to traditional film and paper. But all that business strategy mentality is something hard to pass on to the next generation, though I'm attempting to do it myself, at least in those moments I'm not slobbering over topographic maps of places I still want to get to before my 70's.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
27-Jan-2016, 09:16
I notice a number of "Calumet" branded made-in-China film holders on eBay. Did someone buy the name or just pirate it?

Bruce Barlow
27-Jan-2016, 10:39
They were nice for studio supplies, and at one point were a convenient local option for large format film too. Overall they just didn't play their cards right. If you
give up your specialty niche and just offer what everyone else does, then there is no other card to play than price, which they didn't understand either. Then when they dropped the ball on Zone VI, that was another red flag that whoever was in charge didn't understand the importance of offering something unique, then backing it in the long haul. If you just want to provide a digital studio presence, well, that's an extremely competitive game because it crosses over into electronics distribution. B&H was far better than them at that. And Freestyle was getting their game plan worked out when it came to traditional film and paper. But all that business strategy mentality is something hard to pass on to the next generation, though I'm attempting to do it myself, at least in those moments I'm not slobbering over topographic maps of places I still want to get to before my 70's.

I remember meeting with Calumet executives after I left Zone VI. Fred Picker used to refer to such people as "Maximum printable density." You're right, they didn't get it. Others believe that they bought Zone VI just to get the mailing list, and were never really interested in the niche Fred had, in fact, created in the early 80s. Too bad. It is interesting, though, to contemplate whether Zone VI would still be alive today.

john borrelli
27-Jan-2016, 12:03
They had a nice store in Cambridge Mass. I liked their rebadged Rodenstock products. Their rebadged loupes were a great deal for example.

Maybe the company thought they needed to be giant to compete but I think their strength was in the community qualities they had, buying and selling used equipment, offering photo seminars, the bulletin boards and free photo handouts, as well as, having a local sales staff that seemed to be into photography.

Bob Salomon
27-Jan-2016, 12:05
They did, C&A marketing, the company that bought Ritz out of their bankruptcy assets also bought Calumet out of their bankruptcy assets. C&A has been closing down stores like the Camera World and Calumet stores recently.

Should have mentioned that Calumet UK did not go bankrupt and were not involved in the asset sale of Calumet US.

Anthony Oresteen
27-Jan-2016, 13:38
I remember meeting with Calumet executives after I left Zone VI. Fred Picker used to refer to such people as "Maximum printable density." You're right, they didn't get it. Others believe that they bought Zone VI just to get the mailing list, and were never really interested in the niche Fred had, in fact, created in the early 80s. Too bad. It is interesting, though, to contemplate whether Zone VI would still be alive today.

Bruce, how true! I tried to support Calumet as much as I could around 1999-2007 but they were plain dense. A couple of the support folks were good but for the most part they made a lot of dumb decisions. When I bought my Cambo 23SF I was able to get some parts from them but they would constantly send me parts for a 4x5 Cambo that would not fit. And tell me I was wrong!!! Their greatest sin IMHO was that they ran Zone VI into the ground.

I'm not sad to see them gone. All things must pass. I just wish Zone VI had survived. I still have a lot of Zone VI stuff in my darkroom. When the new Zone VI catalog arrived in the mail I would read every word in it to the point that my wife would hide them from me :) .

Randy Moe
27-Jan-2016, 13:52
One problem Calumet had is they never fully computerized their inventory.

They should have copied B&H.

They never knew what they had in stock, towards the end they published lists of used and NOS. New stock was piled on the floor, in the way of shoppers. Rental was kinda secret and they jumped on those renters, but again, didn't list their full inventory. I would comb through the lists, go to the warehouse and have to insist they had the item and force them to go look. Then it became only one guy that knew the warehouse stock by memory and only he could find anything.

Bad management and failure to embrace the Internet and computers. imho

Sven1965
27-Jan-2016, 14:00
145652 This place is still rocking and rolling! Was just there Sunday and it was busy. Saw a lot of folks buying film. I like to shop there when possible. A little more expensive than online, but supporting a local business is a bonus for me ( a small business owner ). Took this shot and resulting crappy, dusty scan with an old Nikkormat and Ilford Delta 3200. Looks great enlarged to 16 x 20!

Randy Moe
27-Jan-2016, 14:04
145652 This place is still rocking and rolling! Was just there Sunday and it was busy. Saw a lot of folks buying film. I like to shop there when possible. A little more expensive than online, but supporting a local business is a bonus for me ( a small business owner ). Took this shot and resulting crappy, dusty scan with an old Nikkormat and Ilford Delta 3200. Looks great enlarged to 16 x 20!

Yes, but Don's sons seem uninterested in taking over...

I will be there Saturday.

edit

I try to buy film at Central, but I need a 100ft roll of 35mm by Monday. I just called they have nothing.

B&H wins.

Bob Salomon
27-Jan-2016, 14:48
145652 This place is still rocking and rolling! Was just there Sunday and it was busy. Saw a lot of folks buying film. I like to shop there when possible. A little more expensive than online, but supporting a local business is a bonus for me ( a small business owner ). Took this shot and resulting crappy, dusty scan with an old Nikkormat and Ilford Delta 3200. Looks great enlarged to 16 x 20!

You should show their front widows and those signs over the counters.

Anthony Oresteen
27-Jan-2016, 15:13
145652 This place is still rocking and rolling! ....!

It must be 20 years since I've been in Central Camera. I used to buy my 120 & 70mm double perf Tri-X 100' rolls from them. Narrow store, very long. I remember that their used prices were on the high side. Felt like I was walking into a store in the 1940's.

Drew Wiley
27-Jan-2016, 16:11
At one time they had good people who could answer questions and supply you with specialty items. As those people retired or otherwise moved on, they apparently couldn't find anyone even to build a competent website. It's hard to buy something you can't even identify, especially when no one who is left who knows what you are asking. Then when you take over a known brand like Zone VI, and even advertise it, but refuse to honor the warranties, and are tentative about what the line even represents anymore, that's like throwing rocks at a hornet's nest. Either stay away completely or do it right. You gotta know who you are, and who you're not.
I just moved on and didn't give them any more business. It was the path of least resistance; dealing with them became a headache.

Sirius Glass
27-Jan-2016, 17:37
145652 This place is still rocking and rolling! Was just there Sunday and it was busy. Saw a lot of folks buying film. I like to shop there when possible. A little more expensive than online, but supporting a local business is a bonus for me ( a small business owner ). Took this shot and resulting crappy, dusty scan with an old Nikkormat and Ilford Delta 3200. Looks great enlarged to 16 x 20!

Welcome to Large Format Photography Forum

John Olsen
27-Jan-2016, 18:40
Done for good? Too bad! My first orders were in '71 and I still have the Jan '85 Calumet catalog just for laughs. I loved 'em and hated to hear of their demise. On the other hand, over 30 years B&H gradually evolved into not being jerks. I guess the market answers the need.

Randy Moe
27-Jan-2016, 18:58
Done for good? Too bad! My first orders were in '71 and I still have the Jan '85 Calumet catalog just for laughs. I loved 'em and hated to hear of their demise. On the other hand, over 30 years B&H gradually evolved into not being jerks. I guess the market answers the need.

That made me laugh. B&H when they were phone only, were huge jerks.

They insisted you order loudly and quickly, as if you were ordering a Chicago Hot Dog!

I think the phone guys were on commission and the rumor I heard is they never shipped asap so they could float your money for a few days. Remember the 80's were very high interest rates.

LOL

Fred L
27-Jan-2016, 20:28
...When the new Zone VI catalog arrived in the mail I would read every word in it ...

So it wasn't just me !! lol

mdarnton
28-Jan-2016, 16:13
That made me laugh. B&H when they were phone only, were huge jerks.

They insisted you order loudly and quickly, as if you were ordering a Chicago Hot Dog!

I think the phone guys were on commission and the rumor I heard is they never shipped asap so they could float your money for a few days. Remember the 80's were very high interest rates.

LOL

My phone experiences with NYC shops made me a devoted shop-local person. I would rather pay extra to avoid giving money to people I don't like. I wonder if the extra bucks they squeezed out was worth the customers they lost. Unfortunately, those days--your local camera store--are mostly gone, except that I always check my local store--Central Camera--first.

Drew Wiley
28-Jan-2016, 16:30
That NYC thing just takes getting used to. Two different salesmen originally from there would sometimes meet in the hallway and start shouting, Ya doity joik
slimeball...etc. Everyone thought a fistfight was about to break out. Later I found out they were best friends and this is just how such people say "good morning" to each other. B&H has legitimately earned my trust and has been a very reliable supplier, so I really don't care about any potential subcultural peculiarities, which is no doubt how they view certain people elsewhere themselves. But within reason, I do try to support local suppliers as often as possible. I'd rather pay a bit extra to give them an incentive to keep my favorite film and darkroom products on the shelf for the convenience of picking it up ASAP. There are a few things like 8x10 film that I routinely need to find elsewhere, or in other cases, where they are willing to special order things and sell them at even better prices than the big houses. And knowing who your dealing with, face to face, always has its advantages, and often leads to long-term friendships.

Randy Moe
28-Jan-2016, 16:48
That NYC thing just takes getting used to. Two different salesmen originally from there would sometimes meet in the hallway and start shouting, Ya doity joik
slimeball...etc. Everyone thought a fistfight was about to break out. Later I found out they were best friends and this is just how such people say "good morning" to each other. B&H has legitimately earned my trust and has been a very reliable supplier, so I really don't care about any potential subcultural peculiarities, which is no doubt how they view certain people elsewhere themselves. But within reason, I do try to support local suppliers as often as possible. I'd rather pay a bit extra to give them an incentive to keep my favorite film and darkroom products on the shelf for the convenience of picking it up ASAP. There are a few things like 8x10 film that I routinely need to find elsewhere, or in other cases, where they are willing to special order things and sell them at even better prices than the big houses. And knowing who your dealing with, face to face, always has its advantages, and often leads to long-term friendships.

We get a lot of escape from NYC people here in Chicago. We have to be patient and train them to be human.

Not kidding, some make it and some don't.

A NYC guy who HAD to leave his home state, we welcomed him, gave him a job and worked with him for 10 years on his anger. He was dangerous.

He recently left his wife and young child by overdose.

He is mourned and I miss him. His road was chosen.

Chicagoan's can have a tough attitude and way of talking, but we still welcome everybody. We look people in the eyes on the street and if you glance away like NYC, you are suspect.

Still going to Central Camera Saturday and I will find something I need. The owner Don, will probably give me a cookie or two. They are delicious. :)

Harold_4074
28-Jan-2016, 19:34
Sigh.

Literally yesterday I used the Calumet CC400 that I bought in the spring of 1968, home from freshman year at college. I mailed them a letter and a check to cover the camera, lens, four holders and postage, but they mailed back a credit slip instead of the excess postage. When I wrote to ask what I was supposed to do with the credit, they said that they had opened a store account for me to make future purchases easier! (I even remember an address---Touhy Avenue in Elk Grove Village. I wonder what that looks like now?)

And yesterday I was also using possibly the last thing I ever ordered from Calumet---a 250mm Imagon bought new in about 2001, for which they had to dig around to find the instruction sheet before they could mail it. I should have seen the end coming even then...

(I do wish that I had that 1967 catalog, although the ones from the 1970s are pretty cool too.)

Louis Pacilla
29-Jan-2016, 09:05
Sigh.



(I do wish that I had that 1967 catalog, although the ones from the 1970s are pretty cool too.)


Hey Harold
You may well know this but just in case ....It's not the 1967 Calumet catalog but at least you can browse the 1965 Calumet catalog here.http://www.cameraeccentric.com/html/info/calumet_1.html It may not be 'in your hands' but at least you don't have to worry about the pages getting soggy from the tears.;)

Two23
29-Jan-2016, 17:50
I still have a camera store (2 locations) in my small city. They are doing well but mostly print off digital images, sell frames, and Canon, Nikon, Tamron. I go to Chicago once a year for a photography convention and always go to CCC. I have a lot of fun there! One year, I went to the counter by the 35mm film and the clerk asked what I needed. I told him I needed a memory card for a camera my dad had given me. I wasn't sure what kind because I couldn't find the slot for it. I then pulled my Leica IIIc out of my little red camera bag. :D He said they would trade me a new digital camera for it if I wanted.


Kent in SD

Kodachrome25
30-Jan-2016, 11:55
Still going to Central Camera Saturday and I will find something I need. The owner Don, will probably give me a cookie or two. They are delicious. :)

I have jobs to shoot in Chicago in March and April, I'll have to check them out.

Old_Dick
30-Jan-2016, 12:50
I wonder what happens to their intellectual/video property, like Fred Picker's DVD. Who owns it now?

Bob Salomon
30-Jan-2016, 12:55
I wonder what happens to their intellectual/video property, like Fred Picker's DVD. Who owns it now?

Ask C and A in NJ.

Old_Dick
30-Jan-2016, 15:22
I did, nice people, it is Ritz actually. C&A always refers me to Ritz for any questions. Haven't heard from them yet.

Bob Salomon
30-Jan-2016, 15:39
I did, nice people, it is Ritz actually. C&A always refers me to Ritz for any questions. Haven't heard from them yet.

No, it is C&A. They bought Ritz from the bankruptcy.

Wayne
30-Jan-2016, 15:54
I wonder what happens to their intellectual/video property, like Fred Picker's DVD. Who owns it now?

The rights apparently went to some fidgety, moth-eaten old guy in my town, who is burning them in his garage for 10 bucks a pop.

Bob Salomon
30-Jan-2016, 16:25
The rights apparently went to some fidgety, moth-eaten old guy in my town, who is burning them in his garage for 10 bucks a pop.

Picker was bought by Calumet in the long gone past, Calumet had since undergone many different owners and management changes since the Picker stuff was discontinued. There is a very good chance that under those changes the Picker stuff may have simply been discarded.

Old_Dick
30-Jan-2016, 16:49
As best as I can figure out, once Calumet sold their inventory, no more DVDs for sale, with no plans to burn anymore. After I contacted C&A about duplicating the DVD on a thumb drive I was directed to Ritz. Ritz told me as long as I didn't make them "en masse" they didn't have a problem with me making copies. Just wondering at this point, who or who will own the rights, waiting to hear from them now.

r_a_feldman
22-Feb-2016, 12:45
Just bought a bottle of Rodinal-formula developer from Central Camera -- I had asked them more than a year ago if they would carry it -- and just finished the 72nd frame on the film in my Olympus Pen FT, so time to hit the darkroom. Also have a few sheets of 4x5 to develop.

I work around the corner from Central Camera, so I try to drop in at least once a week. My fear is that I'll miss a week and they will be gone.

Bob

Randy Moe
22-Feb-2016, 13:08
Just bought a bottle of Rodinal-formula developer from Central Camera -- I had asked them more than a year ago if they would carry it -- and just finished the 72nd frame on the film in my Olympus Pen FT, so time to hit the darkroom. Also have a few sheets of 4x5 to develop.

I work around the corner from Central Camera, so I try to drop in at least once a week. My fear is that I'll miss a week and they will be gone.

Bob

I need to go pick up some 35mm color film I dropped off Thursday. They farm it out, yet are the cheapest place I know for color film developing.