Happy Birthday, Roberts Camera!
Founded August 21, 1957
Congratulations, Roberts Camera, for 60 years of fantastic continuous service to the photography community.
I feel quite lucky to have Roberts Camera only a few blocks from my offices in downtown Indianapolis. Roberts is like the old hardware store my father used to take me to as a kid every Saturday. We would visit the hardware store, where he was known by his first name. They greeted him and he—as well as others—would talk about new drills, hammers, and the latest in home improvements. For fun, the morning hardware store gang would challenge Fred, the owner, with finding something odd. Most of the time he’d go down an aisle, pull open a drawer, and produce some oddball piece of hardware, thereby meeting the challenge.
Well, Roberts is kind of like that. It’s like the bar on Cheers, where you walk in the door and they know your name. The people working at Roberts are passionate about their jobs. They know everything about the business and many of them have been there for decades. Maybe that’s because the owner of Roberts makes the store a fun place to work. Roberts is the kind of camera store that has just about everything.
While neighborhood camera stores are closing down at an alarming rate, Roberts seems to be growing. Just about two years ago Roberts moved into its new megastore on St. Clair St., in Indianapolis. Before that, Roberts was located in the heart of the city but was running out of space. Frankly, having been to the old store many times, I wonder how they managed to survive there for so long. Talk about a store bursting at the seams! That was what the old store was like. Today, it’s a different story.
The photography business is a difficult one today, whether it be in retail, like Roberts, or as a profession. The adage of “adapt or die” could never be truer. That’s what Robert’s has done time and time again, and it is why Roberts will continue to survive while others are closing their doors. You can learn more about their history HERE.
The man behind this success is Bruce Pallman, who is the owner and son of the founder. Describing Bruce is difficult. He seems to have endless energy and is one of the friendliest guys you’ll ever meet. He has a hard time being behind a desk, so it’s not unusual to see him out on the floor servicing customers and chatting it up with regulars. He seems to be everywhere, and sometimes it’s fun just to come in to Roberts to talk with Bruce.
An Interview With Bruce Pallman
In the video below I sit down with Bruce and talk about the camera store business and how he has been able to adapt and stay ahead of the curve. You’ll hear the story of how Roberts started in the camera business and how it has changed over the years.
Roberts is not just Bruce, though. It’s a team of committed and knowledgeable folks who love photography. The retail floor team members know every product they sell and show you the features of any camera you are interested in. Do you need paper, ink, a camera strap, tripod, or even chemicals to process film? The enthusiastic team will know what it is you need and know where it is.
Here’s a cool video from a few years ago where Bruce talks about Roberts
Going onto Roberts, for me, is like visiting Costco. The place drives you to impulse shop. I go there looking for one thing and end up spending time wandering the aisles and getting hooked into looking at the newest audio gear, camera bags, and used lenses. Warning: this is a place that you’ll want to spend your money on something photographic.
Today, with the changing retail photography market, Bruce realized that he needed to expand into other areas to continue to grow and prosper. Therefore, he entered the used camera marketplace a few years ago. Today Roberts is one of the nation’s top used camera dealers. It’s mind-blowing how much used camera gear they have as inventory. I am told that they turn this inventory over every 90 days. Not only do they take in a large amount of gear on trade, but they also move it all over the world.
Roberts is turning into a true family business. Bruce took the business over from his father, and today Bruce’s daughter, Meredith, and son-in-law, Cory Reinker, play a big part in the company’s success. Cory was instrumental in making the used camera division a major profit-maker for the store. Meredith handles the marketing and PR as well as being a full-time mom. Like Bruce, they seem to have endless energy and are never sitting still.
As Bruce explains in the video above, some years ago Roberts had a lucky break and as a result turned out to be the major supplier of cameras for the huge press contingent of this country. Commercial and pro photographers also discovered Roberts and all have come to depend on Jody Grober to handle their business. Jody is all about relationships and finding the best solution for his customers. He’s on a first name basis with just about everyone that calls in and specializes in making sure the customer is happy and gets what they are asking for quickly and at the best price. His reputation in the photo community is second to none. Next time you need something give him a call.
Leading the team on the sales floor is Phil Gibson. He’s been with Roberts for 20 years, and you can’t help but like him and get into a conversation about the latest in cameras and lenses. He’s a mirrorless camera expert and is extremely good at making sure his customers get the system that’s just right for them.
Corey Reinker heads up the used department of Roberts. His team is huge and, as you can see in the images below, the used camera department is super organized and very active. If you are looking to trade in gear or buy something used, then keep Roberts Camera in mind.
One of the things hurting many independent camera stores these days is the Internet. I asked Bruce how often he has people come in and look at cameras and accessories, and then leave to purchase them on the Internet. Not surprisingly, he said that 30-35% of in-store visitors leave after looking at something and purchase it from an online reseller (no names mentioned but you know who they are). Why? Because they can save on sales tax, mainly.
All of this seems unfair to me. It seems a reasonable price to pay to establish a face-to-face relationship with a knowledgeable person. What is even worse is when, after purchasing a camera somewhere else, these customers come in asking for advice or troubleshooting on their purchases.
While I am as guilty as anyone else of ordering online, I do try to make most of my major purchases with Roberts. I have a relationship and friendship with everyone there. The prices are the same or close to what you can find anywhere else. If it is a new product, they can usually guarantee me one of the first pieces when products are shipped.
You may have read sometimes in my articles about how I get my products from Roberts. I have also found that when I need something and everywhere else seems to be back-ordered, Roberts has it. Even if you aren’t local to Indianapolis, keep Roberts Camera in mind.
In the last month, Roberts has added an audio department to their store. They carry the famous Klipsch line of audio speakers and systems. http://www.klipsch.com/ Now I can go to Roberts and shop for one of my other passions: sound and audio gear. The Klipsch line is local to Indiana and recognized as one of the best makers of speakers and audio systems. Visit their website, as there is a fascinating history of this company. I’ll bet you didn’t know that Indianapolis had so many things going for it, right?
There aren’t many camera stores like Roberts left and more will be going away in the near future. From the first day I walked into Roberts in 2002 and introduced myself, I have watched Roberts grow and evolve, not to mention adapt. Bruce Pallman and his team are unique in this business. As this crazy photo industry changes, so will Roberts, but what won’t change is friendly, no BS service and support you receive from this company. If you are visiting Indianapolis, do two things: look me up and let’s get together for a coffee (or a beer), and together we’ll go and take a tour of Roberts.
Congratulations, Roberts Camera, from Luminous-Landscape on your 60 years of service to photographers, and especially to the great city of Indianapolis. We wish you luck in your continuing success.
Take A Tour Of Roberts With The Images Below
220 E St Clair St
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Luminous Landscape Wishes You Continued Succes
Thanks for Being My Camera Store