Mike's Quality Cameras in downtown Visalia to close

The Fresno BeeJune 10, 2014 

Another longtime downtown Visalia business is closing its doors.

Mike's Quality Cameras, opened in 1977, is closing because of the difficult retail environment for independent camera stores, said co-owner Pam Coz-Hill.

"It has been a great lifestyle, fun and challenging," Coz-Hill said.

She and her brother Rob Coz took pride in offering extras such as baby and passport photos, helping people order custom prints, and answering questions about the latest camera gear.

It's painful to see a well-known downtown business close, said Elaine Martell, executive and operations director for Downtown Visalians.

"A lot of us are going to miss that personal service," she said.

The closure echoes last year's closing of Link's Men's and Women's Wear. However, restaurants and specialty retail seem to be occupying vacancies, she said.

Starting Friday, Mike's Quality Cameras will hold a going out of business sale. Everything will be sold at cost, the store said.

"We felt happy being the survivors" in an era in which independent camera stores are an endangered species, Coz-Hill said. The only remaining independent photo store in the Valley is Horn Photo in Fresno, she said.

Mike's has one full-time employee and two part-timers.

The onset of digital cameras led to the demise of the stand-alone camera store. "We are part of the electronics industry with its razor-thin margin of profits," Coz-Hill said.

Also, "people aren't making prints -- that used to be the bread and butter of the small camera stores."

A fun recent trend won't save the business, Coz-Hill said.

"Young people come in with grandpa's old camera and buy film," she said. "They're so excited."

Mike's Quality Cameras was started by Coz-Hill's father Mike Coz, who died last year.

He caught the photography bug as a boy when his father bought a farm that happened to have a darkroom. He bought a camera at Sweet's drugstore in Tulare and photographed his friends, developing film and making prints, she said.

In World War II, he was assigned to a troop ship and participated in the reproduction of "V-Mail" or "Victory Mail," in which letters from home were photographed and the film airlifted overseas, then printed and delivered.

After World War II, he got a job at Albert's Studio in Visalia, then operated the photo counter at Main Drug Store in Visalia.

At age 52, he opened Mike's Quality Cameras, and his children took it over when he retired.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.

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