By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Camera Craft, the last independently owned camera store in the region, will close next month, ending more than a century in business.
Owner Tom Brady had put the business up for sale earlier this year as he prepared to retire after 25 years of ownership and decades more working at the store. After no buyer emerged, he set a closing date for April 8. Brady officially announced the planned closure today.
The store at 3801 Perryville Road will sell its complete inventory at closeout prices, including its display fixtures. Camera Craft is offering large discounts on everything from cameras and lenses to tripods, bags, lights, filters and other accessories.
The closure will leave a gap in the market for professional photographers and hobbyists. Camera Craft is the last remaining independently owned camera store between Aurora and Madison, Wisconsin, Brady said.
The store’s history dates back approximately 100 years in Rockford. The company has seen numerous changes over the years, from capturing on film and printing in darkrooms to taking digital photos and processing them with computer software.
It was previously located at 114 W. State St. in downtown, then 311 W. State St. and 116 S. Church St. before moving to the Edgebrook shopping center, where it filled what is now Evolve Dance Co. The store spent 37 years at Edgebrook before moving to North Perryville Road in April 2011.
Customers say throughout the years the store’s personal attention and care for its customers set it apart.
“Every time I walked into the store it just felt like I was walking into a room with people who knew me,” said Mindy Joy Nutter Young, a professional photographer and longtime Camera Craft customer, told the Rock River Current earlier this year.
Bob Brady, Tom’s father, started working at Camera Craft about a week before Tom was born in 1956. He bought the business in 1966 and ran it until he sold it to his son.
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All eight of the Brady children had worked at the store at one time or another. Pat Brady, Tom’s brother, still runs the office operations today.
Tom Brady said in an interview with the Rock River Current in January that photography will remain an integral part of his life in retirement. However, now he’ll do it as a hobby rather than as a business.
“I’m looking forward to moving back behind the camera from behind the counter, and returning back to my roots and what got me started capturing moments in time in the first place,” he said in January. “The love of photography.”