I remember Altman Camera very well ... It was the greatest camera store on earth--literally.
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.
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.
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. ?
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.
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.