Business

Shutters close on Whidbey’s only camera store

Staff at Kits Camera in Oak Harbor will soon find themselves out of work when the shop closes in the coming weeks. In the front is Doug Gibson and in the back are Michael Londer, Paul Bigelow, Victoria Marks and manager Philomena O’Rourke.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Staff at Kits Camera in Oak Harbor will soon find themselves out of work when the shop closes in the coming weeks. In the front is Doug Gibson and in the back are Michael Londer, Paul Bigelow, Victoria Marks and manager Philomena O’Rourke.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Whidbey Island’s only store devoted to cameras and images is shuttering its doors this month.

Kits Camera, which has been in business in Oak Harbor for decades, is closing soon, although its final day hasn’t been announced.

“I’m sorry for the community. It was a unique service,” said Philomena O’Rourke, who has managed the camera shop since 1994.

She said the closure of the Oak Harbor store was a corporate decision. She learned about it June 24 and said that the closure would happen in the next three-to-five weeks. The store closing banners went up and sale prices were placed on most merchandise in an effort to sell out its stock.

Efforts to contact Ritz Camera, the parent company of Kits Camera, weren’t successful.

O’Rourke said the business has changed significantly since she started working at Kits, located in the Safeway shopping center.

Back in the 1990s, Kits was known for its one-hour photo processing service where staff went through countless rolls of film. The camera shop could process different sizes of film, including 110 and 126 millimeter film. Kits used to do a significant business creating slides, but that has completely dwindled.

With the advent of digital photography, people’s needs changed as they stored images on cameras, disks, flash drives and computers. O’Rourke said that staff handled “gobs and gobs of images” and Kits started offering specialty printing in addition to its one-hour photo service.

The nationwide photography chain has been struggling. News reports state that Ritz Camera last month filed for bankruptcy for the second time in recent years. The company plans to close 128 locations nationwide and reduce about half its staff, according to news reports.

The shelves are starting to empty at the Oak Harbor store, but a selection of cameras, bags and equipment will remain on the shelves for a week or two.

Some staff members are looking for new jobs while O’Rourke said she isn’t sure about her next step.

 

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