Aiming “to help ordinary people capture the extraordinary moments of their lives,” The Camera Shop, a Michigan-based chain of camera stores, has been selling cameras since 1939. The Camera Shop in Lansing opened in the early spring of 1996. Its sister stores are The Camera Shops in Traverse City, Muskegon, Grand Rapids, and the soon-to-open Ann Arbor. Chadd Smith started behind the counter at The Camera Shop in Muskegon at seventeen years old and has grown now to run the shop in Lansing. With a passion for photography and a love for working with the community, Chadd has seen The Camera Shop of Lansing flourish. Vanguard is proud to have been a part of Chadd’s and The Camera Shop’s great success for more than 20 years.
With a large, cheery sign announcing its presence, the shop can be found right off S. Pennsylvania Avenue, a road that runs towards the heart of Lansing. Upon walking in, customers are greeted by friendly faces against a background of many, many cameras, tripods, bags, and other accessories. Customers of all kinds filtered in throughout the day, pleased to have their questions answered by the professional photographers on staff. Meanwhile, I sat down with Chadd to learn how The Camera Shop has become so successful in a time when many other specialty stores have been forced to close their doors.
Online and in-store shopping each offer the customer a different set of benefits, but, as Chadd put it, “If you want to hold the product, feel the product, get the expert opinion, you’re not going to pay more for that” by shopping at The Camera Shop. Customers come in with their gear in hand, ready to try out different bags or tripods. Don’t like how it fits? Unlike buying online, you can try another, no return necessary. Don’t know where to look next? Chadd and his staff at The Camera Shop can help. Put simply, The Camera Shop has become a destination because of its robust offering – allowing customers to get a feel for products before they purchase – and its expert staff – allowing customers to find the right solution to their particular set of needs.
As Chadd explained, today’s specialty camera store must also make sure to diversify its services in order to survive this digital age. By offering basic printing services, repair services, and photography classes that draw people into the store, The Camera Shop has been able to attract customers and keep them coming back. Adhering to these principles of good business means The Camera Shop is highly involved in the local community. Being the seat of state government, the host of industry like General Motors, and the home of Michigan State University makes Lansing a unique focal point of very different dynamics. The Camera Shop engages with the community in multiple ways from various angles. Chadd gives photography instruction courses to the State Police and to fire investigation units. In fact, after having been introduced to the tripod through these courses, most Michigan State Police posts use the Vanguard Alta Pro 264AB 100 aluminum tripod in the field. The Camera Shop also offers beginning and advanced photography classes to the public, teaching basics like how to charge your camera all the way through to advanced techniques like principles of composition. The courses are held on Saturday mornings, and attendees get generous discounts at the store to help meet any needs they might discover throughout the course.
I came away from my day spent at The Camera Shop with a strong impression: Chadd and his staff are eager and ready to help any aspiring or veteran photographer capture those special moments of their lives. With satisfied customers and a stronger community left in their wake, The Camera Shop has years of success ahead.