There are, without a doubt, excellent camera stores who have featured mail order services.
But it occurred to me that we still need to endorse our -local- camera stores, especially if they have an excellent reputation.
To begin, I'd like to endorse Schiller's Camera store here in St. Louis, here for more than 100 years, and outstanding staff. I've purchased my Canon 5DII from them, and along with that 3 L series lenses. They are always my "go to" store, not only for the equipment, but also for opinions and advice. I know all of you would agree with me in saying that we NEED to support our local camera stores. So I'm beginning that here with: www.schillers.com
I hope no one minds my beginning thread.
I am happy for you that you have such a "go to" location; to the best of my knowledge a "go to" brick and mortar location in the Chicago area I can have faith and trust in is no longer. The place I go to to "kick tires" has not given me any reason(s) for purchasing gear from them.
Having grown up in the Chicago suburbs, does your experience include the suburban area? (I hope not.)
I highly recommend Service Photo in Baltimore, MD. The knowledge and professionalism of all of their staff are beyond reproach.
(a regular here)
My "local" camera store, the Pasco Camera Exchange in New Port Richey, Fl. http://pascocamera.com
It is about a 45 minute drive each way for me on US-19. I try to give it business as much as I can, but the bulk of my purchases are from B&H.
The problem is with the advent of Walmart and the response by both Target and and KMart most people want to buy for the lowest price possible and try to avoid sales tax as much as possible. Every industry is facing this issue. Even cooking supplies can be bought on the Inet cheaper than in the local stores.
Rowe Photo in Rochester, NY. They use to have three locations, but are down to one now.
To share a thought: I think so many of you would agree with me in that -quality- camera equipment will have a long life, which means, buying a previously-owned camera body, lens, flash or similar object can be an amazing value, especially if you're on a tight budget and desire a top quality lens. One of my three L-series lenses is such a critter, and purchased from my local dealer. What I thoroughly enjoyed was not only the advice from the sales staff, but the offer that I have a 30-day return policy. If I'm not happy in those 30 days, I can return it to them.
BTW, they didn't have what I wanted on my first visit when looking for that lens. The (now) sales manager noted my quest and my phone number. In less than a week, his call told me he had not just one, but two such lenses, but he likes one that came in on trade, and it was in it's original box. Lens purchased, in just a few days I knew it was an excellent purchase. So look at your local store for used equipment when you find your pockets are (temporarily, hopefully) not too deep.
I found that the local stores are price competitive but charge tax (they have to and out of state mail order stores should but get away with it and in theory you are to send the state the tax). When I buy some new equipment I like to hold it and try it to see if i'm comfortable with it. Aside from that the advice I received in the past probably saved me more that the tax money I might have saved. We are losing a lot of them and when they are all gone any price the remainder charge is what you pay. Prices are somewhat controlled by competition.
Agree, local is best for returns, advice, and comparing. For Canon buying locally and via internet such as Andorama are about same price due to Canon's pricing model. But that being said Ebay can offer excellent discounts, mostly this is gray market, meaning warranty can be an issue (buyer be aware!). Again though I saved BIG recently and also able to register the camera for warranty, getting coupon discounts offers, and able to download various Canon software, virtually same as say Andorama, plus seller 1 year warranty - which again can be dubious.
Often authorized Canon dealers dump equipment to non authorized to meet required sales quotas, BUT doubt buyer will be able to identify whether USA product unless stated by Ebay seller and then pricing will have smaller discount.
Although I rarely ever buy cameras, I do get my color film processed, and that I will ONLY do locally. Faster service (usually within 24 hours), less expensive processing charges, no shipping costs, and people I can talk with directly in person if necessary.
When I lived in NY I supported my local camera store, B&H, and paid the sales tax. I now live in a state with no sales tax. Supporting a 'local' store would mean 120 mile round trip. B&H ships free and gets it here the next day. They often have 2 - 4 % cash back. There is no incentive to shop 'locally'. In fact it would, in some cases, be a significant cost.
What information about a product can a store clerk give me that I can't find myself on the internet?
If there was a dealer in the neighborhood I would give them a shot. But they still have to do more than the next guy to be competitive. The store the OP mentioned, being there 100 years, must be doing something right and should be applauded and rewarded.
Thank you for saying that. They certainly have been doing something very right. I encourage my college photography students to shop there as well.
Unfortunately that has been the norm for the past 15 years. People who don't support their local stores will lose them, its a simple fact of life!
I hated the fact that my city had gone ovet 10 year with no camera store at all so 5 years ago I bucked the trend and opened one. It has bern a resounding succes because 10 years without made people realuze how valuable a resource having a local store was.
Too bad it takes the total loss of these stores to get people to wake up to their benefit and need!