DES MOINES, Iowa — “I challenge you to go around the city of Des Moines, of 300 some thousand people, and find me a Pentax, Panasonic, or Olympus camera, and you won’t, and that’s what’s happened,” said Angelo Anania, General Manager of H.B. Leiserowitz Company.
Times have changed, but there was a time when H. B. Leiserowitz was booming. The height of the business was in the 1980s.
“We didn’t have enough time to get things done during the day,” said Anania. “We were here from 8 to 5:30, 6 o’clock at night. The bosses, Al and Frank Leiserowitz, worked seven days a week. Sundays they’d come in and work three, four hours.”
The business, which is 122 years old, started by selling things like tobacco and candy.
“And then it evolved into appliances, electronic equipment, cameras came,” said Anania. “We just did it all, luggage, TVs, everything, we had everything in here.”
But Sam’s Club, Costco, and Walmart made it impossible for Leiserowitz to compete. Another disruptive game changer was technology.
“I’d say things started to change when digital came in and film went away,” said Anania. “You didn’t have the people coming back for film, you know, and other things, supplies. With digital, you just don’t need that. You might need a memory card. You might need a lens once in a while, but that’s not enough to keep you going, you know, it’s just not.”
That’s unfortunate for customers like Mike Watson, a photographer who runs a dark room business in town.
“These guys have been like a huge supply for me for that, for chemicals and film and stuff like that,” said Watson. “They’re one of the few places in town that still carry a lot of that kind of stuff.”
Not having Leiserowitz around anymore will be a huge loss.
“I mean, for me especially, like there’s just not photo stores in town that have such an emphasis on film,” said Watson. “There’s also just, you know, this is kind of the corner photo store for me, like everyone here knows me and I come in and I have conversations with the people that work here and stuff like that, so it’s definitely sad that it’s going out of business.”
The business will remain open until December 3rd, when it will have a final auction starting noon.