After 103 years, Winter’s bows out

When Colin Winter closes the doors of Winter’s Camera Centre, Burnie, on September 29, it will signal the end of three generations of photo retailing, stretching back over a century.

His grandfather started the business in August 1909. It has had several moves over the years, along with a period of expansion in the 1980s when they opened new outlets. They have leased the current store, in a prime city location, for the past 18 years.

Colin Winter (pictured right) has decided not to put the business ‘Australia’s oldest camera store’, on the market, but to simply close it down.

‘I’ve put common sense ahead of family tradition,’ said Mr Winter, I’m really comfortable with the decision.’

He said the option was there to take another three-year lease but that lacked appeal.

The original Winter’s premises, initially called Tasma Studios, with a WW1 Victory Parade passing by.

‘I could continue, but I just wanted a clean-cut finish,’ he said, noting that he had been doing shorter hours recently and ‘the staff do all the rest’.

This year is his 40th anniversary as owner of Winters, which he purchased from his father and brother in 1972.

‘This was taken during The Depression and the signage out front states ‘Local Views & Post Cards’ My grandfather would go out and photograph anything he thought had appeal, as things were quiet and people had no money. Many of these images are on glass plate and are now included in what is known as the ‘Winter Collection’ which is recognised Australia-wide as one of the most significant collections, with over 330,000 images. They include everything from scenes, ships, trains, portraits, weddings, events, special occasions, etc.’ (CW)

Ultimately, Colin Winter, 62, encountered the classic dilemma for family-run businesses – no interest from the next generation in carrying it forward.

His daughter owns and operates a large and busy restaurant in partnership with her husband on the Burnie waterfront, and his son works as a chef at The Australian Embassy in the Hague on an extended posting.

I’d rather close than sell to someone,’ he said.

‘It’s been good to us so we’ll just close the door. I know previous generations of the family will be happy with that decision.’

He acknowledges that the closing of the only photo specialist outlet in town will leave a hole.

‘Who will fill the breach? The sad bit is there is really no one else.

‘Since I made my decision a few months ago I’ve been looking at all the people in shop and just admiring the way the staff go out of their way to help.

‘Harveys is just mass-produced. They don’t go that extra mile like we do.’

Reflecting back, he said that photography ‘has been a fabulous industry to work in’ and had been good to him. He identified the uptake of digital photography as a dramatic change, the rapidity of which was unanticipated, and lamented that some of the magic – watching as an image appears in the developing tray, picking up your prints from the photo store – had been lost as a result of the switch in technologies.

‘People don’t get to experience that any more,’ he said.

Winters Camera Centre has been a Kodak store through and through, and an early recruit to Leading Edge Digital when Kodak outsourced marketing and central ordering to the buying group.

‘The group has met all my expectations and beyond from when we first joined,’ he wrote when notifying Leading Edge of his decision. ‘The central billing is a vital component and along with the catalogues, buying power and most of all the assistance provided we have thoroughly enjoyed our time in the group.’

A later image showing a well-stocked camera section in the left side window and professional photography images in the right – and the good old early model Holden out front.

End of an Era

The following is Colin Winter’s farewell letter to his fellow retailers:

It is with mixed emotions that I have made a decision to retire at the end of September. This has not been an easy decision but one where I have put common sense ahead of sentiment. I wish to do a lot more travelling, playing golf, fishing, my artwork and all the other things you do in retirement whilst I am young enough, or more importantly fit enough, to enjoy it.

I have decided to close the store rather than sell and our last trading day will be September 29. The store will have been trading for 103 years, 1 month and 9 days, and as stated this is the end of an era for Australia’s oldest camera store, which was started by my grandfather on August 20, 1909.

I will continue trading with our mining division where we sell Rear Vision System Cameras and Monitors, and this will be done from a new location.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my 46 years in the industry and feel privileged to have met so many fantastic people and suppliers. I consider myself lucky to have experienced the transition of the industry over those years and have worked with plate cameras, contact printers with dish processing, right through to the digital world of today. Our company has always been the first to adopt the changes in our industry and has kept up with the latest technology available.

There is no secret to success in business: it is about having well-trained and presented staff who provide an exceptional service to customers and the store offering what customers want. I am indebted to our fabulous staff who have supported us over the many years.

– Colin Winter


4 thoughts on “After 103 years, Winter’s bows out

  1. Best Wishes Colin, it seems like yesterday when I flew down to meet you in the 70’s. Have a great NEW life and ENJOY the MOMENT.

  2. Colin – I wish you all the very best in your retirement.
    I will never forget when Gordon Graham, Maurice Gourley and myself were setting up your original Focus Dip and Dunk and Kodak 5S printers.
    I can still see Gordon on the stairs with the printer on his back as we carried it upstairs.
    Good luck.
    Alan

  3. Proud to been able to keep this iconic store going having purchased it from Colin. I too have had many years in this industry
    and looking forward to a continuation of the excellent service Colin and his family have offered for 103 years
    Thanks Rob and Robyn Watt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Related Posts