When a demolition crew knocks on the door of Glazer’s Camera this June, it won’t be because the 79-year-old photography store has finally been crushed by the digital tidal wave. It’s true that, in the 14 years since Rebecca Kaplan and her brother, Ari Lackman, (both third-generation members of the Glazer family) began working at the store and later took over as co-owners, the company has faced a rapidly shifting market. And Kaplan will even cop to being caught flat-footed: “The shift to digital—well, the photo industry didn’t see it coming, at least not that quickly.” But Glazer’s has thrived nonetheless by embracing the future—and the past.
The walls of Kaplan’s office in the company’s South Lake Union location are lined with vintage cameras. But it’s the sketches of a new flagship building sitting on a table in this cramped, messy room that really catch your eye. Planned for the same location, at the corner of Eighth Avenue North and Republican, the store will anchor an eight-story, mixed-use project owned by the Wolff Company, a Spokane-based developer.
“It takes a lot of effort to sell a camera, rather than just the click of a button,” Kaplan says, with a light dig at online commerce. “If someone’s coming in here, they want a connection.”
When Wolff began gobbling up real estate along Eighth in 2013 it ran into Glazer’s main shop, a building protected by a long-term lease. But Kaplan says a deal was reached “through negotiations and conversations” to bring Glazer’s into the construction. (She won’t divulge details, saying only that it was “really desirable” to stay put.)
The imminent rebuild is just the latest change for a company that’s been expanding for years. Glazer’s has moved several times over the years, finally landing at its current location in 1987. “At the time, South Lake Union was a miniature photo community,” Kaplan says, recalling the neighboring photography lab and grip house. Shortly after the move, Glazer’s opened a studio down the block on Dexter Avenue, which eventually became the shop’s rental department. In 2000 the company added a third building across the street dedicated to digital equipment.
Now digital stock dominates all three Glazer’s buildings, a fact that lies at the heart of the company’s continued survival. “Digital photography is open to so many people that it’s made everybody a photographer,” Kaplan says.
Construction will force Glazer’s to squeeze operations into its two other buildings. Kaplan calls the short-term change “a much-needed refresh,” forcing the company to stock and promote more digital film and photo equipment on shelves. But, for Kaplan, square footage isn’t the issue at this point; it’s alerting old and new customers alike to the temporary move. Once they’re in the door, though, the hardest part is done. “It takes a lot of effort to sell a camera, rather than just the click of a button,” Kaplan says, with a light dig at online commerce. “If someone’s coming in here, they want a connection.”