Customers don't just shop at Nelson Photo. They stop, browse, talk shop, talk shop some more, and then buy what they came to buy or drop off film for developing. Yes, film. It's still alive and well at Nelson Photo.
If you've been around San Diego any length of time, you remember the Nelson Photo store and warehouse on India Street in Little Italy. It was a fixture in that neighborhood for 55 years. After a brief move to La Jolla, Nelson Photo can now be found in Point Loma's Midway District, where, co-owner (with wife Nancy) Larry Kuntz emphasizes there's plenty of parking and the old-fashioned Classics Malt Shop next door.
"This building," Kuntz said is obvious enthusiasm, "is perfect for us."
The Kuntzes bought the camera store from the Nelson family in 2001. Nancy had been the longtime manager at the Little Italy location. "Nelson Photo actually was a much bigger entity than it is today," Larry Kuntz explained. "It was a retailer, yes, but also a wholesaler and a distributor of products going back to the '50s. (Nelson Photo supplied clients such as Convair and General Dynamics.) They sold part of it to us and sold the much larger part to Fuji."
The Nelson Photo location may have changed a couple of times since that Little Italy heyday, but its services and products have not. "Cameras are still our bread and butter," Kuntz said, "and accessories for any kind of camera system. We still offer classes, too — that's a big part of our business."
What Kuntz calls the "legacy of our business" is "a very strong photo lab. We still print pictures, we still develop film, we still sell film."
According to Kuntz, while the so-called digital revolution of 2001-2007 seemed to foretell the end of film, that has not been the case. "In the last five or six years film's kind of had a resurgence," he said. "People have realized how good film is."
There's also the fact that "People love good pictures and good cameras. One of our challenges," Kuntz added, "is to get people to get their images off their phones and on to something — either print or some kind of digital CD or DVD or jump drive of cloud. We do a lot of that now."
Nelson Photo has about 16 employees on site. "Most everybody here is some type of photographer," Kuntz said, "which is surprisingly unusual for a lot of camera stores, where people there are retail. Here, most everybody shoots." That adds up to a lot of in-store conversations and consultations, and some sharing of memories, too.
"This is a nice business," Kuntz said. "It's 'Hey, I'm taking pictures of my baby,' or 'I'm getting married' or 'I'm going to Africa.' It's a fun place to be."
— Nelson Photo, 3625 Midway Drive, Suite J, San Diego. Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. (619) 234-6621. nelsonphotosupplies.com
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