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Customer demand leads to Kenmore Camera expansion  

  • Written by Shannon Michael, Features Writer

Kenmore Camera Family PhotoKenmore Camera owner Jim Donovan, center, has three children who are members of the company leadership team. Shown in the store with Donovan are daughter Mary Panichi, who manages administrative work, Bob Donovan, who manages the technical responsibilities, Donovan’s grandson and Scott’s son, Michael Donovan, who operates the photo lab, and Scott Donovan, who manages the technical responsibilities for the store. Photo by Shannon MichaelKENMORE–Despite the downturn in the economy the past several years, and the growth of easy to use digital cameras on cell phones, Kenmore Camera has worked hard to maintain demand for its store’s products and growing line-up of services.
The company’s persistence in anticipating and meeting customers’ evolving needs not only helped them weather the current recession, it has allowed the company to expand.
 

Customers are turning to the specialty camera retailer for more than products; they are seeking hands-on classes, unique products and lab service.
 

Jim Donovan, who founded Kenmore Camera in 1974, is moving his business located at 18031 67th Ave. NE in Kenmore, to a bigger location across the street in response to customer demand.
 

Donovan purchased the retail space, which used to be a grocery store, from the City of Kenmore in Kenmore Village, a redeveloping downtown commercial area.
 

“An expanded service mix requires more space,” Donovan said.
 

The new location is 17,000 square feet, more than tripling the space from the 4,600 square feet at the current location.
 

Kenmore Camera hopes to occupy the space by early September. A grand opening date has yet to be set, though. The store’s construction is ahead of schedule. The contractor, Dewalt Commercial LLC, expects the remodel to be complete by the end of August.
 

Building renovations are underway including a major exterior facelift. The finished space includes two classrooms, customer lounge, expansive retail space and custom lighting displays.
 

OAC Services, Inc. is providing construction and project management and the architecture firm is ORB Architects.
 

Despite the shrinking specialty camera market that has forced many competitors to close their doors, the multi-generational, family business is growing due to constant improvements. It features lab services and classes that accommodate all experience levels, attracting customers from as far north as Bellingham and as far south as Tacoma.
 

Customers can register online or by phone for classes on topics ranging from a crash course on digital photography, travel photography and night photography, to classes on specific types of cameras.
 

As a King County Executive’s Small Business Awards finalist, Donovan attributes a part of the company’s success to the niche Digital Photo Expo that Kenmore Camera hosts annually the first weekend in November at the Lynnwood Convention Center. The Expo offers product demonstrations and 32 classes covering a wide variety of photo related subjects.
 

Kenmore Camera RenderingArchitect’s rendering of the new Kenmore Camera building.The recently negotiated purchase made it possible for the company to stay in Kenmore, a city that the Donovan family calls home. Donovan and his wife, Martha, live just up the hill from the business.
 

“Kenmore is where we belong. The city leadership wants us here, and our customers know where we are located,” said Donovan.
The Donovans’ three children are members of the company leadership team. Bob Donovan, the eldest son, handles management and operations; Scott Donovan manages the technical responsibilities; and Mary Panichi, their daughter, manages the administrative work. The Donovans’ grandson (Scott’s son), Michael Donovan, operates the photo lab.
 

“Retaining Kenmore Camera as a local business was a priority for us at the city,” said City of Kenmore’s city manager, Rob Karlinsey. “We support our homegrown businesses and worked hard to make sure Jim and his team had what they need.”

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