Chicago's Central Camera to reopen after being destroyed amid civil unrest

Ravi Baichwal Image
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Chicago's Central Camera to reopen after being destroyed amid civil unrest
Central Camera will reopen its 121-year old store late October after the fire amid civil unrest this summer.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Central Camera needed to close its doors after $1 million of inventory was damaged during the civil unrest this summer in the wake of George Floyd's murder. The 121-year-old store will reopen for the first time since the incident by the end of this month.

Don Flesch's grandfather opened the store in 1899, and it has become part of the community since.

"It is uplifting for us, and it has been uplifting to them to know where to go, or where they can buy something, or we tell them we don't have it. If they need right away, fine. If they can wait, then we special order it, so it's a community feeling," said Flesch, owner of Central Camera.

"Because it has a history, it has a neighborhood even though it's the city, and he is a wonderful person, and it's something that's really missing" said Kiyomi Taguchi, customer.

Central Camera, a bowling alley of the camera, chemicals and tchotchkes of the photographic trade, will first reopen in temporary digs next door and then the original space by next summer.

RELATED: Central Camera serves 120 years of photographers in downtown Chicago

Flesch started at Central Camera in 1968. He helped Jason Reeves pick up the photography bug on a class trip when he was 13. Now Reeves, with Glaziers Local 27, is donating his services to the rebuild that was made possible by insurance and $220,000 in donations.

"I was just so upset to see such an old business like this," Reeves said. "Something like this happening to it, having him sitting across the street in his car watching it burn was heartbreaking."

Flesch said there were over 11,000 camera establishments in the United States at one time, but now there are just over 200. The enthusiasm of the customers and other photography aficionados visiting his store look to continue his tradition when he reopens his store.

"For someone like Don to be here, to be able to get my film processed, that is very important for me, for my own mental health, for my own appreciation for things that are real," said Khoa Dao, artist and customer.

"The common denominator is what? Photography. Which is what? Saving history," Flesch added.

For more information about Central Camera, visit the store's website.