TOPEKA, Kan. – For 97 years Wolfe’s Camera has been a staple in Topeka. On Saturday, July 31, the store will close its doors for good.
“Our reason for closing the store, Kansas Avenue is incredible, business is fantastic, honestly we are all getting older,” President of the company, DeWitt “De” Harkness told FOX4 affiliate KSNT News on Friday.
Harkness said he has had employees who have been with him 30 and 40 years.
In January of 2020 Wolfe’s Camera came close to selling the trio of buildings they occupy on Kansas Avenue. At the time CEO Mike Worswick told KSNT News he had hopes the sale would finalize in the spring.
“If I have learned anything through the years it is change is going with you or without you,” DeWitt said.
DeWitt recalled having to reinvent the store at least a dozen times.
“I look back at our company starting with the 1980 video revolution,” DeWitt recalled. “We grew the video experience, 10 years later the computer revolution hit.”
Wolfe’s quickly adopted and sold cameras on Ebay and Amazon, DeWitt said.
“We bought Wolfes.com, we wouldn’t be here today, if we hadn’t gone to the web,” DeWitt said. “Eighty to 90% of our business has been on the web.”
Rumors began to circulate in May that the building was for sale and the store would be closing when clearance sale signs went up around the building.
“Wolfe’s has offered to remain a tenant for a period of time following the sale,” Worswick said in a January of 2020 interview. “Once the sale is complete, Wolfe’s will have decisions to make. We could move to a different location, sell our business to another company or close the store.”
In May of 2020 Worswick told KSNT News the business had changed its mind about selling the building.
“Any plan for the sale of the buildings where Wolfe’s is located evaporated with the economic issues related to the pandemic,” Worswick said in May.
While the store’s last day remained unknown, in the summer of 2021 “Going out of business” signs went up around the store and liquidation sales started. Just days ago however, signs went up around the store saying July 31 would be the last day.
According to IBISWorld there are 785 camera stores left in the US in 2021, down 13.3% from 2020. In 2021 there were over 2,200 camera stores in the US.
It is commonly believed the dip in camera sales is directly related to the emergence of smart phones, all equipped with cameras.