Calumet Photo in the US Officially Declares Bankruptcy, Gave Employees Zero Notice

Update: Calumet has posted an update to its Facebook page to say they might reopen a few locations. Full statement at the bottom of this post.


In a story that is still very much developing as more information comes to light, well-known camera store chain Calumet Photographic has filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy without so much as a whispered warning to their employees.

Rumors of the potential bankruptcy first began swirling yesterday, but weren’t confirmed until earlier today when the court papers appeared online. At the same time, the Columet website and Twitter disappeared, and the company posted a short, sad statement on its 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.

Everything about the situation is grave as grave gets. Court papers show that Calumet is declaring less than $50K in assets and between $1M and $10M in liabilities. And to make the situation even worse, the company seems to have handled the bankruptcy extremely poorly, giving their employees ZERO notice until this very morning.

Comments on the Facebook ‘goodbye’ post are not all of a sympathetic nature. Many are being left by outraged employees and their friends and family members who are wondering how the company could justify treating their staff in this manner:

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 10.28.16 AM

One of our readers, a former Calumet employee with friends still working for the company, gave us a bit of insight into how employees were notified:

According to my coworker, management was notified of this decision late last night, and told not to open for work the next day. My friend is still waiting to hear when/if he will be allowed to go back to the store and collect some personal belongings left on his desk.

It seems the stories told in those Facebook comments ring true: personal belongings locked in stores, rented gear still out to customers, an obscene amount of liability with little to no assets to cover it — there is absolutely no silver lining to speak of.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 10.27.48 AM

The story is still developing, so be sure to check back often as we’ll be updating this post if and when further details become available. The full court papers are available in PDF form here.

(via Photo Business News & Forum)

Update: This post just went up on the Calumet Photo Facebook page:

Stay tuned, as we are exploring opportunities to reopen select locations to keep serving our customers. We will post any updates here if there are any.

Update: We’ve published an exclusive interview with a Calumet employee who offered us a behind-the-scenes glimpse into what was going on in the business before this news broke.

  • Shawn

    Not many of us are buying $15k lenses, since those would likely be owned by a company, but people can tell.

  • el Morte

    They did, just not so far as the judge see’s it, let alone the security used to attain it. Prison ink as swag may not be a fair trade for everyone.

  • Stephen

    In addition to Marc’s excellent response below, I’d point out the reverse to your point is also true: the employees surely saw the writing on the wall. You can’t seriously think any retail camera employee in 2014 doesn’t fear for his/her job.

    And indeed, per PetaPixel’s update linked above, it seems clear the employees in fact saw and recognized plenty of warning signs. So this entire criticism of Calumet (for not “warning” employees) becomes disingenuous.

  • Stephen

    It astounds me that in this day and age, people still value domain names. Everything today is hyperlinks, social networking, and keyword searches. Most people get to the New York Times website either via a bookmark or by typing “New York Times” into Google. Almost nobody types “nytimes” into their browser’s address bar.

    Why anybody still cares about domain names is beyond me. Your URL could literally be 1J6DH4BB9 and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference if you had good content, lively social networking, etc.

  • CptNerd

    Looks like they closed the Facebook page, too…

  • kim


  • Broseph of Arimathea

    Not according to IAS2.
    Or any basic accounting text.
    Or the english language.

  • Broseph of Arimathea

    The actual burn here is on you, for trying to buy a UV filter.

  • Cory Robertson

    Screw these other people. $45 dollars for what is basically a screw on piece of saran wrap is outrageous.

  • Cory Robertson

    “what happens if those employees steal a bunch of equipment on their way out the door?”

    Seems like it went the completely the other way with them locking the doors and basically stealing the employees belongings.

  • Andy Umbo

    I was more than happy to pay a few bucks more at Calumet to keep my friends there in business, but it was pretty obvious over the last few years that Calumet did not have people sitting down and negotiating with their suppliers for cheaper shipping rates, etc. to remain competitive. As a person who has worked many years in media FOR retailers, I can tell you that the quality and enthusiasm of the back-office people is important to maintain competitive edge, and Calumet was just losing it. Employees from Calumet on other sites have talked about being on “cash-only” with camera suppliers like Nikon, well, once you’re not paying your invoices, you’re not going to be getting the best wholesale deals either, to pass on to your customer. I never buy Amazon, because I want to talk to people on the phone, and I never expect an Amazon price, but if B&H has a sweet-heart deal with their shippers, and they can get me a 30 dollar item I need with 4 dollar shipping, and Calumet charges 35 dollars for the item and 12 dollars for the shipping, it’s pretty much a “no brainer”. As mush as I like Calumet, none of clients in photography is paying ME anymore to not worry about how I buy supplies!

  • Marc Whipple

    True enough. I suspect a lot of it was trying to sell consumer cameras, in which there is NO profit for anybody except maybe Amazon.

  • Marc Whipple

    It would be, yes.

  • Troy Hendrickson

    Personally I’ve never done business with Calumet, when I’ve made purchases mail order it’s always been with B&H and we have several independent local camera shops if I have to have it yesterday. I always looked at the website and just walked away with the impression it was a bit cut rate.

  • Joe

    Their FB page is down, so any updates they may have posted about reopening stores is not visible.

  • Devorah Kaye Goldstein

    …and devices called hoods that protect the lens when you are. :)

  • aemoreira81

    The Photo dot com domain appears to be just a generic portal now.

  • Kal Umet

    What many people don’t realize is that Calumet was ruined by the hiring of RITZ CAMERA EXECUTIVES. And we all know where Ritz ended up… TWICE. Coincidence?

  • guest

    anyone know where they will be liquidating?

  • Alex Minkin

    yeah, my insurance would have negated a deposit, and as a former employee, i have resources…all speculation of course.

  • jcns

    that’s because you assume that all pictures you see were taken with a $500 lens.

  • Marco Siguenza

    Bad news for Los Angeles, Now we have to deal whit the
    unfriendly people in Samy’s Camera, specially the Fairfax location

  • jsj

    I have 28-70 NIKON that was sent in, and was notified just before bankruptcy announcement that it was ready for pick-up. They still have it. Now what?

  • jsj

    the 28-70 lens was in for repair- to clarify.

  • curiousjosh

    Aaaand… that’s just not true.

    There are definitely differences in UV filter glass. To some it doesn’t matter, and you can buy cheap filters. For others, it does.

    up to you, but I found out the hard way about glare on poor filters.

  • Joe Mahma

    “We find it’s always better to fire people on a Friday. Studies have statistically shown that there’s less chance of an incident if you do it at the end of the week.”

  • Rabbit

    I just got word that calumet will be giving any advise for how to get our last paycheck and 401k thru social media Facebook.

    Is there anyone else out there aware of this? Why would one use social media to hand out personal info for the company? Are they aware not everyone uses Facebook. Not everyone goes to some support group. Not everyone is constantly on Facebook. Not everyone was notified about Facebook. Not everything is about social media. That things like this isn’t how you give information that’s relevant and has a deadline. Are they that completely inept and retarded?

  • Dustin

    When is the liquidation sale?

  • Tom Davenport

    I should have rented that Phase One IQ180 back.

  • Viperpenn

    As a creditor, my letter received from the bankruptcy court says the next court date is April 24th.

  • PRG

    I should have rented a FEW Lenses

  • PRG

    When does the 90% off Sale begin?

  • james balboni

    the store in Ft.Lauderdale is open ! 10-40%

  • Jay Clark

    I found out when receiving an email about the closure “sale” today. It however gives no dates, nor times, and the facebook page has been deleted.

  • Skyblue

    I went to their store and with all the discounts I still have s**t price on stuff. This is why they went out of business. And yes I compare them to Amazon. I 3 months ago buy from them a remote release cable. It cost 49 dollars. Crazy. I order one from amazon that had a small time laps computer with it for 10.99 free shipping with prime which I cancel 30 days later. So 1/5 the price I got a time laps cable release. Also their flash is 500 dollars. On Amazon I can get a TTL and HSS high speed sync flash yoguno for 119 new. I buy 2 yuguno manual flashes 30 each and they work like work horse for the past year with rechargeable battery. I get 400 to 800 takes pictures on a charge using them just as fill low power. The bulbs have not burnt out yet. I have about 20000 clicks on them. Also buy 3 remote triggers. That was 24. So for 74 I have a pro set up. I even have stands 24 each. I buy 2 tripods from Calumet And the heads were so shity for 200 they are not stable at all. Got a funky play in them. There is a reason why people go out of business. Also the sales person was so condescending. He was talking to my as if I were a total idiot. Even though he was one.

  • Drie L

    I wonder how C&A would use the Calumet brand and its services and how they would incorporate it in their own brand. What services would you want to see C&A retain from the old Calumet? Whatever they want to do with it, I still think its a good move for C&A to expand reach and market.