Altman Camera Company

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by Ph0t0_man, Mar 26, 2009.

  1. Ph0t0_man

    Ph0t0_man Member

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    Any Altman Camera alumni out there?
     
  2. Barry S

    Barry S Subscriber

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    Are you referring to the Altman Camera store that used to be in Chicago?
     
  3. Ph0t0_man

    Ph0t0_man Member

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    Yes I am. I worked there 72-73 up until the union caused him to close.
     
  4. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    My understanding was that the employees voted for a union & Ralph Altman decided he wasn't going to allow a union in and just closed up shop. I was working at Helix at the time & we bought his customer list & took on a few of his (former) people.
     
  5. Barry S

    Barry S Subscriber

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    I remember Altman Camera very well, even though I was still pretty young when it closed. It was the greatest camera store on earth--literally. It was huge and I've never seen or heard of a bigger camera store. I know there were at least three large floors filled to the brim with every piece of photographic equipment imaginable. It was well maintained and perfectly organized and the salespeople were knowledgeable and friendly. I remember hearing people talk about Central Camera and still remember the first time I walked down Wabash to Central and thought it was a joke--the size of a tiny shoebox compared to Altman's. Now I go to Central and it's a treasure. I remember the first time I went to B&H--nice, I though, but smaller than Altman. When Altman closed, I was shocked. It happened so quickly and with no notice--it just disappeared. It still bums me out.
     
  6. isftpobawp

    isftpobawp Member

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    I worked at Altman's from the fall of 1970 to late 1971. I started at the film counter and moved to darkroom equipment. I remember (vaguely) someone organizing for a union. Some time after I left I was interviewed by someone claiming to be a government investigator. I was asked if I was ever threatened by management concerning union activity.

    My first clue that Altman's had closed was an ad in the New York Times claiming that 47th Street Photo had bought Altman's inventory. It was a sad day. Altman's carried every piece of equipment available up to medium format, and had it in stock all the time. You needed some obscure attachment for your enlarger: we had it.
     
  7. Ph0t0_man

    Ph0t0_man Member

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    What I remember was the Union Activity started prior to my employment by some people who were no longer with Altman. It was being pursued in the courts by the Union and the Union prevailed.

    A group of us were invited out one evening by some Union officials and we told them we were not interested. They said to bad the court had given them the right to unionize the store.

    Shortly after that (a week or two) Ralph Altman informed us that he was not going to let anyone tell him how to run his business and began the liquidation.

    We had days when there was 300 people on the first floor waiting for a camera sales person.

    There was 4 floors serviced by an elevator and an escalator. The basement was large format, first floor was camera and film and a second and third floor. I know one was devoted to darkroom but I can't remember what the other one was.

    I worked Camera's and went over to Helix for awhile after the store closed.
     
  8. WisJim

    WisJim Member

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    I worked at Altman's around 1968 to 1970. I left to go back to college just before the darkroom department moved to the basement. I started at the film counter, moved to darkroom equipment and purchasing. What a place!! We could always borrow used equipment overnight or over a weekend if we needed or wanted to try out a lens or camera body. I bought way too many used cameras and a couple of new ones while I worked there.
     
  9. pdraver

    pdraver Member

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    John, You got it (maybe some of it from me). The final enforcement (they fought the initial ruling) was several years after it was initiated, a few years before I started there in '73. I thought I'd stay till the end at Helix as I did there, but no such luck. They let me go 1/11.

    How are you doing?
     
  10. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    Yes, it was a fine store, and I still miss it.
     
  11. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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    It always reminded me more of a jewelry store than a camera store. Camera stores were messy with things tucked away in cabinets and drawers (I worked in a camera store in Michigan); jewelry stores were organized, and Altmans was organized! It was a great store.
     
  12. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    I googled Altman Camera and right away found the labor case appellate decision which was an interesting read, and also Altman's obotuary from 2002.
     
  13. fotch

    fotch Member

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    I was just a kid when I went there, and more like a jewelery store, I felt more at home at Central Camera. Those were the days...
     
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  15. camera

    camera Member

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    Any one remember Cheryl Kooiker

    Cheryl Kooiker was working at Altmans when it closed....
    would love to try and find her.....but it has been a long time....

    how about Chris Fletcher...we roommated together doing that time

    It was a very sad time when this great store closd
     
  16. fotch

    fotch Member

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    Welcome to APUG.
     
  17. pen s

    pen s Member

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    Hey, an Altman thread! I worked there from about April of 73 to May of 75 when they closed. I'd just got married in March 75 and it was quite a blow to lose a job I really loved. Finally worked for a little shop on Dearborn st. until September of 78 when we moved to the Pacific NW, young wife, 14 month old daughter and all. Didn't get back to visit Chicago till Sept, 2008, 30 years later, and found my Chicago was GONE! Visited Central Camera and right away recognized a salesman who had worked at Wolk's Camera (remember them?) right next to Altman's on Wabash st. It was his last week on the job, just about to retire. Altman's gone, Wolk's gone, Bass Camera gone, Shutan Camera gone, now it is a camera store desert out there. I'd have to make a 130 mile round trip to Seattle to look at a reasonable selection of cameras now. Oh well, I'm old, what does it manner. I have more film gear than I could ever use and film and paper and chem's are just a mouse click away. Such is our modern world for old camera farts like me.
     
  18. jon koss

    jon koss Subscriber

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    Can't be too many Cheryl Kooiker's on planet earth...

     

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  19. williamkazak

    williamkazak Member

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    I used to go into Altmans. It was huge. Paul Schrantz, who worked upstairs, later became one of my professors of photography at Governor's State College. Standard Photo on Chicago Avenue was nice too. I bought tripods and light stands there. Who tried to resurrect a store on LaSalle St. ?
     
  20. RickG

    RickG Member

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    Altman Flashback

    Oh my, this thread brought back some memories. As some of you have mentioned working at Altman camera, I did as well during 1971 and into 1972. I was also embroiled in the union action and my name is even mentioned in the ruling mainly due to being illegally pressured to rat out people which I never did. Nevertheless, it was an amazing camera store and I was working there to support my habit which at the time was 35mm photography. However, the wages were meager and raises even less so. I remember Ralph calling me into his office and telling me what a great job I was doing and as a reward he was giving me a 20 cents an hour raise. And, that was after sending me out for a lie detector test which I guess I must have passed. I’m sharing this so as others could understand how a union could get its foot in the door. At any rate, I never did care one way or another because I enjoyed my job selling movie equipment on the second floor. Arriflex or Bolex anyone? I also made some wonderful friends who have been lost to the years that have passed. I left before the store closed but recall being deposed over the union issue. I believe that they must have won because true to his word Altman shut it down.
     
  21. williamkazak

    williamkazak Member

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    Now Helix is on the way out. They are selling the rest of their stuff on eBay. Altman's was the best. Standard Photo was good too. Central Camera is still going and Don is in charge daily again. Manny has retired as a salesman. Part of Altman's staff went to LaSalle street and had a camera store. Still cannot recall the name. Calumet Camera is still kicking in Chicago.
     
  22. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Member

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    Hey I studied with Paul Schranz at Gov State! Loved altmans, still got the d 2 v bought at Helix
     
  23. williamkazak

    williamkazak Member

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    I don't think I knew you there, Dave. What is a d 2 v?
    William Kazak
     
  24. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Member

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    Omega enlarger, William I lived in Park Forest South and was a band director at Crete-Monee school
     
  25. williamkazak

    williamkazak Member

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    Thanks. I worked with a guy who used the Omega enlarger. I use Bessler.
     
  26. DF

    DF Member

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    Now Chicago has basically just two camera/photography stores - Central and Calumet. Anyone remember Shutan's? 'Bought my first X700 there in '84.
    Now Helix is also gone.