Art’s Cameras named Dealer of the Year
National trade publication praises local store

By Kelly Smith - Special to Conley Media

March 19, 2019

 Tony Miresse, president and general manager of Art’s Cameras Plus, looks over the store’s new camera inventory with sales associate Claire Kopperud. A national trade publication recently recognized the store as the camera and digital imaging retailer of the year.
Kelly Smith/Special to Conley Media

WAUKESHA — When Tony Miresse was a teenager working in his father’s camera store, they were selling film and flash bulbs, listing equipment on 3 by 5 index cards, and shaking Polaroid film to create an image within a minute for passport photos.

Now, that might sound like ancient history to the millennials and the Gen Z generations, but at 56, Tony is not that old.

He has survived and thrived through the revolution that shook the retail camera and imaging industry to its core. He says he cannot think of a business that has been impacted more by the internet, computers and the digital age.

Three to four decades ago, there were 33 camera stores in southeastern Wisconsin, according to Miresse.

Today, there are three and he owns two of them.

Miresse’s father Art was an appliance salesman in a bigbox store in the 1960s when he was assigned to work in the photo department.

In 1967, he opened his first camera shop in Milwaukee.

Today, there are two locations; 2130 Silvernail Road in Waukesha and 4981 S. 76th St. in Greenfield.

The Digital Imaging Reporter, a leading trade publication for the retail camera and digital imagining business, recently named Art’s Cameras Plus as the 2018 Dealer of the Year.

The trade publication editors devoted nearly an entire edition of the magazine to describing how and why the business is so successful.

“Don’t worry about the future of specialty photo retailing. Art’s Cameras Plus understands the need for optimum customer and employee experiences to foster their continued growth,” the editors wrote.

The article describes how the camera store provides its customers with services they cannot order on the internet or buy at big-box stores.

In addition to selling cameras and accessories, the store provides one-on-one training sessions, and classes, on equipment and the art of photography, as well as store-sponsored travel and picture-taking excursions.

There is a large inventory of used equipment for purchase and equipment that can be rented.

In addition to its digital lab, the store still processes about 30 rolls of film a week and converts print photographs, slides, and video to digital formats.

Often cameras are sold in kits that may also include lens, filters, batteries and bags.

“At Art’s, they feel obligated to make sure customers have the essentials to get maximum enjoyment from each purchase. So, they offer multiple kits to simplify the process for both the customer and the sales person,” according to the magazine.

Focusing on the customer

The magazine also outlined the incentives and benefits to its 22 full-time and six parttime employees.

Nearly all of the sales staff are avid photographers who are paid a combination of salary and commission.

According to Miresse, they are trained to focus on the individual photographic needs of the customer, not on the price of the equipment.

“Customers will come in and say they want a camera that costs $1,000 or $1,500 because a friend recommended the camera. But that camera may not fit that customer and if the customer buys it, the chances are they are not going to be happy with it,” Miresse explained Instead, Art’s sales staff is encouraged to help the customer find a camera that better fits the customer’s skill level and photographic needs.

“Sometimes we tag team,” explained sales associate Claire Kopperud.

“If I have a customer who is interested in a particular camera and there is another associate in that is more knowledgeable about that camera, I will turn the customer over to that associate,” she continued.

Kopperud also coordinates social media and internet advertising.

Kopperud and Miresse believe one of the reasons the store has survived big-box store and online competitors is because of its mix of social media, broadcast, print, and in-store advertising and displays.

They have a multi-generational list of 20,000 email addresses and they selectively use emails to tell their loyal customer base about promotions, special events and sales.

One of the biggest challenges to the business was the transformation from film to digital cameras and imaging during the 1990s and early 2000s, according to Miresse.

Camera store and film processing lab owners, many of them older, small business owners, had to make large investments in new equipment and learn new technology in order to survive.

“Many of them did not make it,” Miresse said.