After nearly a century meeting the photography needs of the Cedar Valley, Porter's Camera Store is getting ready to shut its doors.
Store manager Tara Lantz said despite dropping profits, the decision came as a surprise.
"I knew there were problems but didn’t think it was this serious," she said. "I was really sad at first. I really haven’t had time to think."
Porter's Camera Store was born in 1914 when Frank Porter bought a College Hill portrait studio. He gradually converted the studio into a black and white photo finishing operation, and his son Darrel Porter later took over the business and began selling cameras and other photo merchandise. In the 1960s David Montz joined the firm and later became a partner.
Porter's mail order business started in the late 1960s when customers would call and ask for merchandise to be shipped to them. The expanding business required more space, so a new Porter's Mail Order Division office and warehouse building was built in the Cedar Falls industrial park. In 1984, the retail store moved from College Hill to a new building adjacent to the office and warehouse facility at 323 Viking Road.
With seven employees, five of them full time, Porter's is the only remaining camera store in Cedar Falls.
But business has fallen off lately, as more people head online to purchase cameras. Additionally, the store stopped developing film in 2011, and there is less and less demand for printing digital photos, Lantz said.
"Profits are down 25 percent since last year," she said.
Another Porter's store at 224 Collins Road NE in Cedar Rapids also recently closed. Porter’s purchased that photo specialty store, Linn Photo, in 2005.
Porter's is owned by Marion-based Rapids Wholesale Equipment.
Rapids Wholesale owners Jeff, Joe and and Geri Schmitt and Joe and Diane Dodds are partners in SDSHS Inc., which bought Porter's from David Montz and Darrel Porter in 1999.
Porter's will close Feb. 22, Lantz said. The store is running sales until then: 10 percent off cameras, lens, flashes and video cameras; 25 percent off everything else.
Lantz said she's appreciated the community support as the store prepares to close.
"People have been calling or just stopping in just to say how sorry they are," Lantz said. "It's been pretty impressive."