After 61 years, Ballard Camera is closing

One of Ballard’s longest-running businesses is closing. Ballard Camera on Market St. will be calling it quits on June 30th, owner Bruce Cozens told us today.

He said the photo printing part of the business had paid the bills until the explosion of digital photography. “The switchover from analog to digital was hard enough, but the economy kicked our butt,” he said. The post office in the store shut down yesterday, and odds and ends from the camera shop are for sale. Cozens said they’ll be discounting more items in the coming weeks.

Ballard Camera opened in 1948, soon after the end of WWII. Now years later, it’s surrounded by vacant storefronts: All the Kings Flags (closed), Ballard ExPress (moved) and Scream Barbershop (closed). We asked what’s next for the Cozens family. “Well, find a way to make a living,” he said. (Thanks Stan).

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

71 thoughts to “After 61 years, Ballard Camera is closing”

  1. I'll miss their little post office and wonder if there will be a new Market St. location for it. It was super convenient and no long lines. Are the scrapbooking things on sale too?

  2. For future processing. film shooters please visit our friends at 60 minute photo on Capital Hill. Our business community is very small and most labs are in the same state as we were. Protect who is left if you want to see film processing in Seattle.

  3. We will truly miss you. My kids have a photo from every Halloween taken in front of your store, what a cool community service THAT was!!

  4. About six months ago, when Michael Jay Taylor was shutting down Price Photo and selling film for pennies on the dollars, much as I love black-and-white, I balked to buy any.

    “Where can you get it processed, anymore?” I asked, more as a rhetorical question than one requiring an answer.

    Mike replied, “Ballard Photo.”

    Now we won't have Ballard Photo to do that anymore.

    Price Photo had been in the neighborhood just north of the University district and south of the Roosevelt district, since the mid-1930s. Mike's dad had bought it from the Price family in 1963. Like Ballard Camera, it too had acquired an annex of USPS (U.S. Postal Service).

    Losing photo shops, where people got advice on how to make their photos better, meet others aspiring to do the same, to the point of really trying to make it an art, as well as a craft, is now on the verge of being lost.

    Having moved up to Maple Leaf, I find the two camera-driven shops in the Northgate Mall of uneven quality.

    Tall's is run by a guy who, when I applied there for work late last year, didn't seem to care about my experience as a Photographer's Mate in the USN. When I mentioned wanting to get some film processed, at first he said no; but then, admitted he could get it done, “but it takes a week, since I send it out.”

    The man at Tall's seemed evasive and unfriendly – about most everything.

    I gave up on getting work with Tall's and took some film up to Kit's Camera, aka Ritz. The film processing was all right; but the push is on digital. Most people who come into Kit's wouldn't know who Ansel Adams or Henri Cartier-Bresson were, if you asked them.

    But at least the folks at Kit's seemed courteous and didn't treat me like yesterday's news. Heck, I might even apply for work there – if they'll accept my application. – Terry Parkhurst

  5. This is a loss for those of us who shoot black & white film. If you haven't spent hours dodging and burning, you don't get it.

    There is still Panda Labs for my contact sheets, and there is Bill at Camera Techs with whom to have intelligent equipment conversations with, but Ballard Camera's closing indicates a sign of a lost art.


  6. Moon photo on Greenwood still open. Kits camera was closed last time I was at Northgate.
    As a traditional retouch artist, digital put me out of business,too, after 20 plus years. People are so used to photoshop that most don't even realize that hand retouching on film and prints ever even existed. Sigh.

  7. Halloween turned out to be one of our best public service things that we ever did.

    I remember the first year that we took pictures and gave out stickers instead of candy. The parents were so appreciative I was really surprised.

    Then 8 years ago I became a parent myself and realized the benefit of one less piece of candy in the bag ( for my sake & the kids).

    Bruce, Monica and I have watched so many families grow up with halloween pictures every year.
    It is amazing to see how the kids changed and the parents got so creative with the costumes.
    There was everything from a bath tub and shower to candy bars and train engineers.
    Halloween was such a special time for all our families.
    Thank You Ballard families for making it memorable.

  8. this is too bad. i hate locally owned business not being able to make it.

    i have a serious question though. did they not want to get into the digital game?

    i went in to their shop 2 weeks ago looking to buy a new digital camera but they had not a single one.

    i can appreciate if this was a 'philisophical' stance that they took b/c digital will never replicate what a skilled photographer can accomplish with film, but given the ease of use and sheer demand for digital, it seems that they should have embraced it. the revenue from that would have allowed them to service their true love for film.

    anyway, i am sure i only have part of the story, i was just surprised they had no digital camera's for sale.

  9. Ballard had lousy service. I don't know how many times they screwed up my order. Then they had lots of attitude if you mentioned anything. Glad to see this on go

  10. I'm so sad. I shoot digital but this lab did a fabulous job at printing my pro photos. I was thrilled to find someone in the neighborhood I could count on. I also suggested the lab to my photography clients. I don't know where to get my prints now?

    And it was where my kids got their first passport photos! I recall the staff being very patient and helpful.

    Can you move to a smaller space and survive? Plenty of empty storefronts around here.

  11. Went in once and thought it was a used bric-a-brac shop selling 20 yr old cameras (and I'm not talking Leicas) on the side. Service was non-existent.

    Another biz no one should be surprised failed. Adapt or die.

  12. I think to blame this soley on the digital photo is completely short sighted. The fact of the matter is businesses have to adapt or they go out of business. Simple economics. The store front is dated and unwelcoming. Instead of blaming the evils of technology how about adapting? Keeping up with the times? The store front is ominous at best. Windows are covered up and not inviting. The store needed a makeover at a minimum. How about offering classes or having open houses to explain the wonders of film photography?

    Yes it is sad to lose a local business. But please dont blame this all on the economy or the evils of digital photography.

  13. Video killed the radio star. I recall a few years ago when Camera Techs had the discarded 1.3 MP Nikon DSLRs that had been used by the Seahawks photog. They were already over-expensive boat anchors. Today you can get better resolution with some cell phone cameras.

    I really hated giving up my Canon 1n two years ago, having been pretty much forced into a 5D by the events I was shooting. But the reverse work flow sucks. Now I spend ungodly hours of my life sitting in front of a computer, playing dweeb-tweak with Photoshop. Fine for e-mail, but it's not photography.

    With the demise of Ivey there are few option left, especially of you want pro quality prints. I did use Capitol Hill Photo for years, as well as Pro-Lab (RIP), Ivey (RIP) and Price (RIP). If Price had fixed their cockamamie credit card machine I would have done a lot more with them. I still have the 10 boxes of paper they were going to use for my 100 rolls of contacts five years ago. They got lazy, they're gone. The few times I shopped at Ballard the service was non-chalant at best and the prices weren't competitive. RIP.

    These days I take my stuff to Panda. Good people, good work.

  14. Not to kick someone while they are down. But I do have to echo some of the comments about the service. The few times I went in service was practically non existent, so I went down the street to the camera shop next to the theater, whose service has always been stellar to me.

    Best of luck in your next adventure.

  15. Sad to see all the vacant store fronts on Market from the loss of our long-term independant businesses. I'll miss Ballard Camera. It was where my parents had film developed from their little Brownie camera many years ago.

    Good luck to the owners and staff.

  16. totally agree. Ballard Camera went to the pits long ago. Some of the folks there are very nice & friendly…but the quality sucked over & over again.

    I too like to support local businesses – but these guys did just not know how to do it right.

    Indeed, just spending a little effort in the appearance of the place would helped get foot traffic in the door & perhaps build a sales base in something. But their attention to quality in their products (film printing/processing esp.) truly reflected in how they presented themselves to the world. I used to frequent BC often, but eventually gave up on the poor quality & crappy overall shopping experience.

    I predicted to myself about a year ago that BC wouldn't make it thru 2009 – surprised it actually happened that quickly.

    It's a shame they just didn't have good business sense to cater to the photo-enthusiast customer.

    Good Luck to Monica & Kathleen.

  17. What breed is that? Badly run, dumpy businesses with dusty and dated products that you could find cheaper online in 10 seconds and be spared their 'what do you want' service? What a loss. I'm crushed.

  18. We just moved to the neighborhood this last year and love Ballard Camera. So friendly and nice – it is a shame. Good luck to you! Mario the white Schnauzer's dad.

  19. I went in a few times, the clutter and poor service turned me away.

    Sorry to see local business go, but I don't blame Corp giants for this ones demise.

  20. ditto on BC not keeping up with the times, I used to go there alot but guit about 2 yrs ago when their service got lousy, and they did not seem to care about their regulars.

  21. When I was there two weeks ago, I heard the staff conversing about how they had way too many booklets of 42 cent stamps that they would struggle to sell after the new 44 cent stamps were introduced this past week.

    Hey everyone, go buy some of their 42 cent stamps along with some 2 cent books from the post office. Help your neighbor out a little.

  22. Selling stamps at a camera shop? What a brilliant business model! If only I had known the junky camera shop on Market was the place to go to get 42 cent stamps! Is the Post Office was the place to go get a Leica M8?

  23. aw man, this one hurts. i bought all my scrapbooking supplies and mailed all my ebay crap there. such is life i suppose. good luck to them.

  24. it strikes me as funny all these comments about ballard camera's poor business model. THEY'VE BEEN AROUND 61 YEARS!! sounds like they knew what they were doing to me. nothing lasts forever, but they had a damn fine run.

  25. I've worked with B&W film for 25+ years and love the printing but outsources the film development over the years and I love a local interdependently owned shop and will always try them first…

    Unfortunately I am not surprised with the closing, digital is taking it's toll for one, but there is more.

    The rude and wrong (with an arrogant, we are always right, you know nothing attitude) I have experienced over and over at Ballard camera has astonished me.

    I've been outright insulted in this shop over 4 times in the past 15 years, always kicking myself after I decided to give them another chance.

    The last straw was telling me a fact I knew was correct was told rudely I was _wrong_. Well, I was not and found a much friendlier answer online with perfect results.

    The time before that was an old roll of film that I wanted developed..instead of 'wasting' their time by humoring me and developing the roll, an employee exposed the roll right there in front of me. I was aghast and so were a few other customers. The roll BTW was for an old 4×5 camera, I had two rolls and thank goodness I didn't reveal the other…I was able to have it processed over at the U and it turned out FINE, even being 15 years old and forgotten about with the older camera equipment (yes, guess what I *do* know how to store my film).

    Their **attitude** and service sucked…BIG TIME..Still kicking myself that I accepted their abusive attitude 4 times. Just because I'm not a professional doesn't mean I don't know my stuff OR that I deserve to be treated in such disrespectful ways. Still pissed & wish I could sue for that roll of film they exposed, but I's guess that's why they are closing shop. Bye bye.

    Go to the U folks, you'll enjoy them a whole lot more.

  26. Billy are you an angry kid? Either way you're kind of funny and I completely agree. And try getting that junk out of the owner's hands at a deal price, I think he's waiting for the dust to turn to gold. He'll be stuck with hundreds of plastic film cameras, thousands of lens filters and a lots of neato stickers.

  27. Billy the Dbag, Not every store is perfect for everyone, but unless they tried to rip you off or spit in your food, you should keep it to yourself when they're closing up their business. This is a community blog of people who all live in the neighborhood and not an American Idol trashtalking forum where you can pretend that there aren't real people on the other end. This is a story about real people, your neighbors, who are now shutting down a business that's been a part of the community for decades. I'm sorry some employee didn't smile widely enough for you, but really do you have to crap on them now?
    I've been in to Ballard Camera a few times for this and that over the years and found them to be perfectly nice and fairly priced. Sad to see them go and best wishes on their next endeavor.

  28. There is a long list of photo labs that have gone under in the past few years. Some of these did everything you mentioned but still couldn't make it. In fact all but a handfull are gone.
    Camera stores have been hurting for years from online competition. When Amazon and Best Buy can sell the same camera at a retail price that is lower than your little store's wholesale cost how are you going to compete let alone make a profit?
    Ballard Camera has hung on as a neighborhood institution for years and just because you think you know the magic formula to do it, doesn't mean that the reality is so. I think they could have dumped a million bucks into it, but they'd still be closing and have a million less to show for it.

  29. So apparently your ONE visit left an impression. I've been shopping there for a number of years. I have bought 2 NEW digital cameras from them and use every one of their other services.
    I do like the people and the family atmosphere. If there was something they didn't have, they gladly ordered it for me. As I'm sure they would have done for you. Even the overstocked overstaffed overpriced big guys have to order things at times.
    Billy if you do get the opportunity to remove your head from your ass you will see that a community will be impacted, jobs will be lost and an era of locally owned craftsman style businesses will lose another member. I hope you are still gainfully employed because if I ever find out you aren't…I won't care.

  30. I have a question for all the people kicking someone when they are down. Is there any businesses in Ballard you like? I know you get great service at Fred Meyer, or Target, or Costco but is there any local businesses you like? Or is it too hard to say anything nice when your soapbox is so high?

    You know, I think you are all right. It will be better to have a empty building there and the people who worked for them oh f em' they can just get unemployment right? I am not into photography so I never really went in there but I think it says huge volumes about you when you attack someone when they are already down. Did your mom never teach you to keep you mouth shut if you have nothing nice to say? or does human kindness not apply unless your homeless? I mean WTF is wrong with you? You think you are being cleaver, funny, or trying to make sure someone does not shop at a store where you think the people working there didn't shove their nose up your rear end far enough? Can you find help at Costco? can you find someone at Target that knows where ANYTHING is? Can you find anyone at Freddie's to help you?
    I find it disgusting that people think it is ok to hide behind their computers like little kids and say things they would NEVER have the balls to say in person. I know it is just a few people but how do you think it makes the owners and people who worked their feel?

    To end my post:
    TO Ballard Camara, I never shopped there, but that's because I don't take photos. I am sure life will hold alot of fun and exciting adventures for you all and wish you the best of luck. Only the ones who never give up succeed.


  31. People who use old western tough guy names on blogs to hide from the real world tend to be pricks. Pricks tend to rub people the wrong way thus probably explains why you had a bad experience.

  32. So very very sorry to hear this – and to all the naysayers – we had all of our digital photos developed at BC, and purchased our last digital camera from them. The quality was fantastic compared to other places around town, and as a mom, I *loved* the convenience of being able to upload photos in the middle of the night, and then just drive down the next day or two to get them. Plus loved the white border options! More than anything, I *loved* the friendly service – they always remembered my name, and knew my kids just by sight – not to mention the Halloween photos. Only good shot we got one year….

    I am so sorry to hear they are going, and can't imagine where I will go now… Any chance you'll maintain a web only store????

  33. Look, I'm not going to pretend Ballard Camera is perfect. But the shop was good to me in key ways that really counted. They were, for example, the perfect antidote to the treatment I got down the street at Camera Techs on my very first day of owning a digital SLR.

    I'd practically bounced in the door of Camera Techs, totally giddy to find a lens that would team up with my brand-new camera body to form a functioning camera. The employee behind the counter got this stricken look on his face. He asked me if there was any way — any possible way whatsoever — to go and get my money back for my new camera. See, he liked Canons. I'd purchased a camera made by some fly-by-night operation called Nikon. Therefore, apparently, my judgment and my camera were pure crap. I left Camera Techs with no lens, totally dejected, doubting myself and my camera. I staggered off and got a cup of coffee at Cugini.

    When I regained my bearings, I went to Ballard Camera. They hadn't sold me my new camera. But they'd processed a lot of my film as I re-learned how to shoot over the previous couple of years. They congratulated me on my new digital camera and helped me find a wonderful used lens. The lens still works great. So does the camera, which — despite the fact it's merely a Nikon — has literally never failed me.

    Whatever else the critics want to pile on and say now about Ballard Camera, I found the shop consistently kind and encouraging. You can see that spirit in these very comments, as Kathleen Cozens reminisces about Halloweens past and tries to steer former customers to one of the local, independent shops that's still standing.

    It's worth noting, too, that Kathleen used her real name here. The people spewing the worst of the nastiness here used pseudonyms. I don't doubt that their problems with Ballard Camera are sincere. I just doubt they'd chose to be quite so caustic if they had to attach their own names to their words. This interplay between venom and anonymity is probably my least favorite thing about the Web.

    Best of luck to Kathleen and the other people behind Ballard Camera.

  34. Your name speaks volumes of your imaturity. It's not as if you actually bought something and it failed, you are basing your comments on looks. There are worse looking shops on the ave but I'm not here to bust their chops. I buy from them too.
    You have some growing up to do. Cut the world some slack. Everyone is trying to survive right now.

  35. “They are more for Old Ballard people, not yuppies.”

    So why should we be sorry they folded?

    And since when does Old Ballard = run down, rude businesses with out of date offerings?

  36. You can see how yuppies are destroying Ballard by insisting on clean, well-organized shops, stuffed with new cameras and shinny things. Whatever happened to the joy of digging through piles of old stock in a drab and dreary shop looking for what u need all by yourself?

    Only yuppies want good service, nice products and competitive prices.

  37. Monica, Bruce and Kathleen-
    From the day I came in asking what kind of film to get for our daughter's birth to seeing her picture in your store window I always thought you'd be that friendly 'just stop in to chat' and talk kids place. I'm so sad you're leaving. Good luck to all of you and may you find success in your next endeavor. Keep in touch. Laura/Sarah/Chris

  38. No, but if you come flitting in after cashing in you're dotcom stock, snapping you're fingers and expect everyone to drop everything because an almighty new Ballard condo owner has arrived, good luck. Nobody is impressed, trust me.

    Old Ballard people tend to be more into waiting on other Old Ballard people first. Normally, because they want to catch up with eachother and are old friends. I have shot the breeze with the Ballard camera crew many times myself. They are cool.

    If you don't like it, well tough luck. Old Ballard people are not here to babysit the new balard condo owners or the transients they brought with them. If you can't figure out what you need at a basic camera store, buy the crap online at

  39. I personally think it had the best service on Market Street. Maybe you are just clueless and looking for somebody to wipe your behind. If you don't know anything about photography, get a book. They are not runing a day care center for newbies. The developing was the best you will find, which Is why I always had mine done there, even if it cost slightly more. The people in there will talk circles around anyone on this blog when it comes to photography…. Dumbasses

  40. They were there 61 years. Longer than almost anyone in Ballard. They were for serious photographers, who were in the store all the time. Trust me, I spent plenty of money there. The problem with you electronics store people, is you think only about having a saleman kiss your butt, as you buy the most expensive camera in the place, but are clueless how to use it. Do you even know how much the machine they use to develope film is worth at Ballard Camera? It's far from outdated, believe me.

    But, I know plenty of Old Ballard business people who were perfectly happy before the new Ballard people showed up, and many are finally free from your abuse. Who cares that you had some dumb job at Microsoft or some porn site and can now buy a camera and condo that you will lose in a year once you are laid off. Those people are experts at what they do, and your spoiled brats that fell into cushy jobs after moving out of Mommys house that are being shipped over seas. But, you dont even have the life experience to know it, or understand how annoying you are to us in Ballard.

    Maybe if you asked an intelligent question at Ballard Camera, they would not have treated you as the hobbyist you are, wasting everyones time that works there and holding up the line with your nonsense.

  41. I too am very sad to see Ballard Camera closing. I worked for Similian Lab, Kodalux Processing Lab, Lerner Processing Lab, Kodak Premium Processing, Qualex and even Fuji Processing Lab over the past …few/many years, depending how old you are. And I have dealt with Bruce and Ballard Camera for all of those years, they were and in my opinion still one of the BEST camera shops in Washington. Unfortunatly they are not the first and will NOT be the last to close. I am truly blown away and disgusted by the negative and ignorant comments being made by Billy, Salmon, Race and Outlaw, have any of you been in the REAL world lately? Ritz Camera has just filed Chapter 11 and they are closing 300 of their 700 storefronts (most of them in WA.) Kodak, which I would consider to be a fairly “connected” company has closed ALL of their film processing labs. With Kodaks closures I am sure we will see even more independant photo shops closing, because they do not have the equipment in house to process film. So Billy, what do YOU, the almighty, think about that, GROW UP and have a little “empathy” (look the word up you might learn something) for your neighbor. Bruce, Kathleen, Monica you all WILL be missed by MANY!!! Take care and best wishes for your future.

  42. I am surprised Ballard Camera has held on for so long. At the end of 1996, Benco Photo was closed in Tacoma. Benco processed film overnight for all Safeway stores in five states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska). I was proud to be a part of this amazing quality operation. Back then, the digital revolution was just beginning to rival 35mm quality. The writing was on the wall when it was announced that we were all to be laid off by years end. Now, over 12 years later, I don't know of anyone using film based cameras. With high quality 24 Megapixel digital cameras available, film is simply obsolete. Safeway made the right business choice to close Benco years ago, but the pain of that decision in human suffering still stings today. Wishing Ballard Camera and their employees all the best for a job well done.

  43. I didn't see this post and stumbled upon the sale by coincidence! It's dangerous! I accidentally bought several (more) old cameras! Don't tell my boyfriend. ;-)

  44. As a long time customer of this great business, I have to admit that when monica sold me my cannon digital camera, my olympus hasnt been used since I got the cannon, so indeed the element of getting prints developed there just stopped. I had a friend in town with me yesterday as we were driving past and I saw the sign that said going out of business, I just gasped and thought to myself, what the hell happened there, and then I thought, dam it, I was a contributing factor to this untimely end of a great business as I looked down in my pocket and saw the cannon camera. So this is progress? Well that is controversial at best, Ballard Camera and the wonderful crew that worked there to me was one of the best business atmosphere that a customer could experience in the Ballard community, I am sure I am not alone when I say that all of them shall be sorely missed.

    J. Dennis Hicklin

  45. Dennis,

    No matter what camera you use keep taking pictures. You are a wonderful photographer. Have a good time with a great hobby. We all miss our customers and friends as well. I am sure we will see you all around. Just say hi.

    Kathleen and Bruce Cozens

    Visit us online at

  46. This was the last store of this kind in the area. They had a vintage wooden 8×10 propped up high as their security camera. Gotta love these folks. The sold me a taped up carton for $28 with a label on it saying “Mystery Box”. Turned out to be full of vintage folding cameras, 5×7 and 4×5 wooden film holders plus some old magnesium flash bulbs. SCORE! That began my appetite for historic gear to document the era of photography I missed.

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