Jim's Campus Camera in downtown San Luis Obispo is closing.
Dennis Johansen, owner of the shop at 770 Higuera St., told The Tribune that he and his wife, Jane, have decided to shutter the business, which has been a fixture in the city for 42 years. He plans to close sometime in March.
The original owner of Jim’s Campus Camera was the late Jim Moyer, a Chicago native and camera repairman in the Navy who worked at Weston’s Camera in Santa Barbara, according to a history of the shop posted on the Jim’s Campus Camera website.
Moyer became general manager of Weston’s, but around 1969, that store was sold to a camera store chain, and in 1970, Moyer decided to branch out on his own, opening a store in San Luis Obispo next to what had been Gabby’s bookstore on the corner of Higuera and Garden streets, according to the website. The shop moved across the street to the Warden block two years later.
Meanwhile, Johansen had moved to Santa Barbara around that time, with the goal of enrolling at the Brooks Institute of Photography. A photographer in the Army and an Iowa native, Johansen worked as an employee at Weston’s in Santa Barbara, and he followed Moyer to San Luis Obispo.
Johansen bought the business, described as San Luis Obispo’s oldest photo retailer, from Moyer in 1987. Johansen could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, a day off for him, according to a store employee.
“The service he and his staff provided over the decades was the best,” said Deborah Cash, executive director of the Downtown Association. “As a Cal Poly student, I recall how helpful they were when I had questions about my photojournalism class projects or needed special supplies. During my nearly 18 years with the Downtown Association, I’ve frequently stopped in to ask questions, and they were always happy to help.”
Cash, who had not heard about the closure, called Johansen a friend and said that it’s “very painful to lose a longtime business like Jim’s.” It can be challenging for many small businesses, Cash noted, saying that she’s not certain the reasons behind the closure.
“What it means for downtown is that a chapter of history is closing, and this is a reminder that the one constant in downtown is change,” Cash said. “Still, the loss of Jim’s is hard, and we wish him and all his great staff well.”