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