Friday, January 18, 2013

Cardinal Camera seeks to build on Wolf legacy at Arboretum

When Ritz Camera shut down and liquidated its operations, including the Wolf Camera stores in Charlotte, Cardinal Camera saw an opportunity.

Kurt Seelig reopened the Wolf Camera store in the Arboretum late last year as a Cardinal Camera location, and is hoping to build it into a major hub for local photo enthusiasts. Family-owned Cardinal Camera has 15 locations, and opened in 1937.

"That's really become my second-best store out of the 15," said Seelig. This Friday and Saturday, the store is holding a camera buyback event in conjunction with used-camera dealer KEH, where they'll offer cash for old cameras. Last weekend, KEH bought back $40,000 worth of old cameras in Richmond.

Seelig said he chose the Arboretum location over the Wolf Camera SouthPark store because shopping centers have lower overhead than malls.

Claire Schweitzer, who works for Cardinal Camera management but doesn't have a formal job title, said customer service is the secret to Cardinal's continued survival in the Internet age.

"I don’t make them wait, because they can go on the Internet and buy something quickly," she said of customers. "At 10 o'clock Christmas Eve I was driving a canvas to someone's house because it got misplaced."

The company does old-school services such as developing film and printing, but also carries the latest photo equipment.

"Customers are surprised," said store manager Tony Ulchar. "We still have phone calls saying 'Do you develop film?'"

And remember, the Wolf Camera at Birkdale Village has also reopened under new ownership, meaning that in the end, Charlotte only lost one of its remaining camera stores (the Wolf Camera in SouthPark) and gained two new ones.

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