Last Page, First Page

gassers-front-9340Its the end of an era, the end of a chapter. After five years working at Adolph Gasser Photography in San Francisco, the time has come for something new.

John announced his retirement and the closure of the store a few days ago. It was both a surprise, and no surprise at all. Business is difficult, John is getting older. I sit just steps away from his office and heard snippets of phone conversations, about selling, about moving on. So I’m not surprised, but still, surprised. The question wasn’t if, but when. Now I know when. When is March 31st, soon.

Years ago I knew that time was limited for the store. The world is changing, San Francisco is changing. There’s no space for a family owned, local business that refuses to embrace cutthroat capitalism, not in the age of iPhones and online shopping. Even I buy more photo gear online than I do with my staff discount. I told myself that I wanted to be there when it happened, to go down with the ship as it were. Now I am doing exactly that, and it feels strange.

Some of it is relief. It was hard fighting to stay alive in this economic climate. My passion isn’t retail, I’d rather be making photos and videos. Still, helping people with their projects and problems gave me a lot of pleasure. I’d literally click my heels or do a little dance when I felt like I’d just saved the day for someone and didn’t think anyone was watching.

I met a lot of great people, both customers and staff. I hope to continue some of those relationships, and those that don’t, I’ll still treasure. I was exposed to so many people, ideas, history, so much technology and talent. It was a run down building, full of crazy characters, leaky roof and old memories. It was a special place, and now it’ll be sold off, piece by piece until its nothing but a memory.

I’m going to launch myself headfirst into freelancing for myself, a pool I’ve been wading in for years, but never committed to. I have savings, and we’re getting severance packages, so there’s some time and freedom to spread my wings and take that risk. Its time. I’ve been preparing for this for a long time. I’m buying some microphones and lenses from the rental department so Adolph Gassers will be a part of my work for years to come.

I have so many feelings right now. The fear and uncertainty surrounding what’s next for me. At the same time excitement for the future and the new possibilities that open up in front of me. I can work on projects I’ve long wanted to work on, I can take more classes, go on more trips. The risks are great, but so are the opportunities.

I also feel guilt and sadness that our loyal customers will be left without their local photography store. I love our customers, both the regulars who come in year after year and the wild eyed newcomers who marvel at our time capsule of a San Francisco that’s quickly fading away. I saw one of them at the Chinese New Year’s parade last night filming as his band marched by and I burst into tears.

We haven’t been able to talk about it with anyone until the official announcement today. Its difficult to listen to people thanking us for our help and expressing their gratitude that a store like Gassers is around to help them with their photographic and video making needs. I choke up a bit when I think about it. Even the talkative old man who brings in old VHS porno tapes to be converted to DVD. Where will he go now?

I’m proud of where I worked, and the help I’ve been able to provide. Its an honor to have worked someplace that’s been such a fixture since 1950.

There is still much work to be done. The remaining merchandize isn’t going to sell itself, and there are many more problems to solve and conversations to be had. It isn’t over yet. I’m glad for this transition period. It would be much worse if it were to be cut off like a hatchet. This process will likely be both painful and ecstatic, and everything in between.

I wish John a happy and healthy retirement. He was a great boss and he deserves that for everything he’s contributed to the community. Similarly my best to my co-workers, whether this means retirement, new careers, travel or anything else they chose to do. Finally I hope that our customers take advantage of our blowout sale and can find the resources, advice, inspiration and connections they need to make their own photographic and filmmaking projects.

I feel honor, pride and gratitude. Onwards to what’s next, but never forgetting the people and the places that have fed me. Thank you all.