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Sunny Schick: Fort Wayne's Last Camera Store

Sunny Schick Camera Shop closed its doors forever at the end of July, 2017. For 90 years, the store was a fixture in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana. When Sunny Schick closed, it was the last remaining camera store in Indiana's second largest city.

The store was founded in the 1920s by Martin "Sunny" Schick, a local professional photographer. The store changed ownership several times in its long history, but the owners always kept the iconic name in honor of the store's founder.

During my lifetime, Sunny Schick was known for having a giant camera sign on the side of the building that faced the small parking lot. From the time I was a kid until several years after I graduated from college, the sign depicted a Nikon F3, which was a 1980's era professional 35mm camera. When the F3 sign got too faded, it was replaced by a Canon Digital Rebel. That was later replaced by the Nikon D2x that was there when the store closed.

I began shopping at Sunny Schick when I was just a kid. Back then, the store was owned by an old man named Dana Christie. He bought the store in 1980, and after he retired in 2002 he passed the store to his son, Bill. Bill's wife worked at Sunny Schick for several years, and their son, Andrew worked there for the last few years that Sunny Schick was open. Bill closed the store so that he could retire. Local camera stores all over the country are closing due to competition from online stores, and Bill felt that the store wouldn't be viable for a new owner.

The store's closing was a sad event for me, and for my fellow photographers in Fort Wayne. Sunny Schick was more than just a store, it was a gathering place and a center of our little creative community. The store's owners were photographers, too. The Christies always treated me like a friend, not just a customer.

The cramped little building on the corner of Washington Boulevard and Ewing Street in downtown Fort Wayne had a special warmth and charm that modern retail stores can never equal. It was originally a small house that was expanded a couple of times in the front. The view of the store from the side makes it look like three buildings stuck together.

Sunny Schick's closing sale began on June 22 and continued until the store had finally sold nearly everything, including many of the fixtures, at the end of July. I visited the store several times as the prices dropped and the merchandise melted away. I made the final photographs of the place as the lights went out on the last day, when 90 years of history came to an end.




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