Business

Photo Pro to close its doors

Owner says store most likely will not relocate

Retail sales associate Shane Wonase talks to a customer about the sale of a rental lens at Photo Pro in Cedar Rapids. Th
Retail sales associate Shane Wonase talks to a customer about the sale of a rental lens at Photo Pro in Cedar Rapids. The store made the decision to sell off its rental inventory after the owner learned the business will be vacating its current location. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Dave Johnson’s love for photography began in high school when he borrowed a friend’s Beseler Topcon camera and took photos of his fellow student athletes.

Now, the Cedar Rapids camera store and printing lab Johnson has owned and run for almost 40 years will close.

Johnson announced in a Facebook post Wednesday that he and the employees of Photo Pro, 153 Collins Rd. NE, will take the next week to pack up and clear out.

Photo Pro opened in Lindale Mall in 1981 and operated there for 10 years before moving to its current location across the parking lot.

In 1989 the store added a lab and began printing materials. Photo Pro also offered services such as photo restoration, custom framing and camera cleaning.

“There’s some unique services that we provide that no one else in the neighborhood is offering,” Johnson said Thursday.

Johnson said the business’ lease has been canceled and a Unity Point Health urgent care clinic will replace it.

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Tiffiny Earl Williams, who rents out the property and is an agent for Skogman Realty, could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.

The business has been making it through the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the derecho very well, Johnson said, crediting its drive-up window.

Photo Pro also hosted approximately 20 free webinars focused on educating people on photography.

“We came along and tried to lift everybody’s spirits,” Johnson said.

Brick-and-mortar photography stores have been on the decline for years, Johnson said. Johnson County lost its last full-service photo shop, University Camera, in 2018, bringing the number of camera stores in the state to four, as reported by The Gazette.

With Photo Pro’s closing, only three remain — the Camera Corner in Davenport, Christian Photo in Des Moines and Alexander’s Photo in West Des Moines.

“I just want people to know how grateful we are,” Johnson said.

Amy Mueggenberg recalled buying her first DSLR camera at Photo Pro in 2011. Before then, she said she didn’t feel like enough of a professional to buy a camera from a real camera shop.

She’s bought all her gear from Photo Pro since, and she has printed photos for the not-for-profit Help-Portrait through the business.

Those at Photo Pro always were able to help explain technical concepts to her and did a great job with printing, Mueggenberg said. She’s not sure where Help-Portrait will print photos next year, as she tries to stick with local businesses.

“I wish there was a way they could find another place and stay,” Mueggenberg said.

Johnson said he has looked at relocating the business, but other locations have been too expensive, too small or would need major renovations.

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The 63-year-old said people shouldn’t get their hopes up, but he’s glad to see the outpouring of support from the community with which he’s worked for so long.

“I just feel so privileged to be part of people’s memories because that’s really the business that I’m in,” he said.

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