Calumet Photographic

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Calumet Photographic
Industry Photographic products and services
Fate US operation purchased by C&A Marketing in bankruptcy auction.
EU operation still active.
Founded 1939
Founder Kenneth Becker
Headquarters Bahrenfelder Straße 260
22765 Hamburg, Germany
Number of locations
Area served
UK, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium
Key people
Christof Bergmann, Managing Director
Products Cameras, video, film, accessories.
Number of employees

Calumet Photographic, Inc. better known as Calumet Photographic or Calumet Photo and formerly known as Calumet Manufacturing Company[1] is a photographic retail and photofinishing specialty store, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. In 2012, the company owned and operated a chain of 32 locations worldwide. The company had 15 locations in the United States, 8 in the United Kingdom, 6 in Germany, 2 in the Netherlands and 1 in Belgium,[2] with 200 employees and an annual revenue of $10 million.[1]

On March 12, 2014, Calumet Photographic Inc filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy. C&A Marketing Inc., the New Jersey-based owners of a number of retail photo brands including Ritz Camera, Wolf Camera, Inkley's, Camera World, and RitzPix, purchased the US-based assets on May 1, 2014 for $4 million.

On May 7, 2014, the company announced that it would reopen its Oak Brook, Illinois, retail store location, and did so on May 11; it served as the anchor for the brand.[3][4] The final three stores closed in January 2016.


In 1939, Kenneth Becker founded the sporting goods store Calumet Manufacturing Company that sold an occasional camera in Chicago.[5] After several years of manufacturing darkroom equipment, in 1955 the company bought the rights to Kodak's Master View 4x5 camera, enabling Kodak to leave the view camera business.[6] In the 1960s, the company innovated the Caltar large format lens line, the C-2 roll film holder and the nitrogen burst film and print processors.[6]

In 1980, the company transitioned from being a large format proprietary product vendor to being a full-line photographic product supplier.[6] In 1983, the company left the view camera manufacturing business and outsourced production to the Netherlands.[7] In 1989, Calumet made a notable improvement on Polaroid instant film technology.[8] In 1992, the company leased 85,000 square feet (7,900 m2) of office space in Bensenville, Illinois, and relocated its corporate headquarters.[9] The current headquarters are on West Bliss Street in Chicago.[10]

In the 1990s, Calumet acquired the United Kingdom photo retail chain Keith, Johnson and Pelling and as recently as early 2009, the company had 20 locations in Europe.[11] In 2007, the retail location in Bensenville was moved next to the Oakbrook Center shopping mall in Oak Brook, Illinois.[11] In February 2012, the company acquired the three remaining Washington, DC, area Penn Camera locations after a United States bankruptcy court ruling following Penn Camera's elimination of 5 of its 8 locations.[12] In October 2012, the company opened three new locations in Maryland, Florida and Illinois following the bankruptcy and liquidation of Ritz Camera.[2]

Calumet stores hosted free classes, seminars and demonstrations in dedicated spaces.[11]

On March 13, 2014, the following was posted on the company's Facebook page: "After 75 years of business it is with a heavy heart that we announce our immediate closing in the United States (our European stores will continue). It has been a joy to share our passion for photography with you all of these years. We'll miss each other and we'll miss all of our customers. Thank you for everything." At the same time their website and Twitter account also went offline. Shortly after, the same message was posted on the locked doors of the closed stores. According to Crain's Chicago Business, the company filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy after a lender opted not to continue its financing.[13]

In April 2014, some of the principals bid on the inventory, store leases and other assets.[14] On May 2, C&A Marketing Inc. acquired most of the assets and announced plans to reopen both and the equipment rental business.[15][16] Less than one week later, the C&A announced that it would reopen the Oak Brook, Illinois location on May 11.[17][18]

In January 2016 C&A Marketing closed all remaining Calumet locations.[19]

European operations[edit]

The 2014 bankruptcy of the US branch had no direct impact on Calumet Photographic’s operations in the UK and mainland Europe, where all stores continue trading as normal.[20]

Following the growth of the camera rental market, Calumet Photographic UK launched a dedicated rental website to feature rental equipment and allow customers to reserve equipment.[21] In 2014, the UK brand won a Gold Retailer award for customer service from Amateur Photographer and What Digital Camera.[22] In January 2015, the brand’s flagship London camera shop in Drummond Street, Euston, was relaunched following a complete refurbishment.[23] March 2015, the Calumet Student Photographer Of The Year award program was launched in partnership with photographic brands including Canon Inc and Manfrotto.[24]

On June 7, 2016, mid-market investment firm Aurelius announced that it had acquired Calumet International Ltd., a holding company comprising both the Calumet Photographic brand and professional lighting producer Bowens Lighting.[25] The firm stated that it intends to expand Calumet Photographic’s physical presence,[26] which, in July 2016, comprised 9 branches in the UK, 6 in Germany, 2 in the Netherlands and 1 in Belgium.[27]


  1. ^ a b "Calumet Photographic, Inc.". Inside View. August 21, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Store Locations". Archived from the original on September 1, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 
  3. ^ C&A Marketing Will Reopen Calumet Photographic’s Oak Brook Location Sunday May 11, C&A Marketing Inc. May 7, 2014. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  4. ^ Kukec, Annie Marie (May 14, 2014). "Shuttered Calumet Photo reopens in Oak Brook". Daily Herald. Retrieved August 6, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Calumet Photographic". Business Review USA. Archived from the original on October 23, 2013. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c "About Calumet Photographic". Retrieved October 22, 2013. [permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Foerstner, Abigail (August 16, 1985). "Handmade Deardorff View Cameras Give Old-time Value". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  8. ^ Thall, Larry (May 26, 1989). "New Film Designed To Improve Photos Of Stars And Planets". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  9. ^ Kerch, Steve (December 13, 1992). "`Largest Auction` Comes Up Big". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  10. ^ "Company Overview of Calumet Photographic, Inc.". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c Schiffner, Bill (January–February 2009). "Calumet Photographic". Imaging Info. Retrieved United Kingdom.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  12. ^ Douglas, Danielle (February 8, 2012). "Penn Camera locations scooped up by Calumet Photo". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  13. ^ Strahler, Steven R. (March 13, 2014). "Calumet Photo shutters, files for bankruptcy". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved March 16, 2014. 
  14. ^ Palank, Jacqueline (April 8, 2014). "Calumet Photographic Finds a Buyer". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  15. ^ Nikitas, Theano (May 2, 2014). "C&A Marketing acquires Calumet, some services to be restored". Digital Photography Review. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  16. ^ Ruminski, Bill (May 2, 2014). "New owner to revive Calumet Photo". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on May 12, 2014. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  17. ^ Nikitas, Theano (May 9, 2014). "Calumet Oak Brook, Illinois store reopens this Sunday". Digital Photography Review. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  18. ^ Ruminski, Bill (May 7, 2014). "Calumet Photo’s Oak Brook store to reopen Sunday". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on May 12, 2014. Retrieved May 12, 2014. 
  19. ^ Sweeney, Brigid (January 26, 2016). "Calumet Photo closes last three stores". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved February 4, 2016. 
  20. ^ Cheesman, Chris (March 14, 2014). "Calumet collapse: Bosses plan return to US market (update)". ’'Amateur Photographer’'. Retrieved July 14, 2016. 
  21. ^ Cheesman, Chris (May 31, 2013). "Calumet launches kit rental website". ’'Amateur Photographer’'. Retrieved July 14, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Good Service Awards 2014 Winners". What Digital Camera. Retrieved July 14, 2016. 
  23. ^ Arva-Toth, Zoltan (January 29, 2015). "Calumet UK Refurbishes Flagship Store, Launches New Blog". ’’Photography Blog’'. Retrieved July 14, 2016. 
  24. ^ Petragnani, Jamie (January 29, 2015). "Calumet Launches Student Photographer Of The Year Awards". ’’Verge Magazine’'. Retrieved July 14, 2016. 
  25. ^ Kleinman, Mark (June 9, 2016). "Photography Chain Seeks Focus With Aurelius". ’'Sky News’'. Retrieved July 14, 2016. 
  26. ^ Zhang, Michael (June 7, 2016). "Calumet and Bowens Acquired: New Owner Plans New Stores". ’'Petapixel’'. Retrieved August 9, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Store Locations". Retrieved July 14, 2016.