By Skyler Gilbert and Brittany Bernstein
Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions, the largest telescope store on Long Island, will hold a grand opening this Saturday to celebrate the business’s move to Stony Brook Village after spending 32 years in Patchogue.
The store had outgrown its previous location in Patchogue, owner Jeff Norwood said. He chose to move to a place with a larger showroom to display an array of telescopes, instead of housing the majority of its pieces in basement storage.
Much to Norwood’s chagrin, he was unable to find a reasonably priced vacancy in Patchogue, which has experienced downtown revitalization and business growth over the last 15 years.
“I was in Patchogue when there were only five stores on Main Street. It was a ghost town,” Norwood said. “Now it’s thriving. But along with it thriving, landlords charge four or five times the rent. I had a lease in Patchogue that was very reasonable, but when I looked elsewhere for other locations, it was ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.”
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The grand opening this weekend will feature a solar viewing on the Stony Brook Village lawn during the daytime, a meteor shower viewing during the evening and stargazing at night. Patrons will be allowed to use store equipment.
There will be speakers, live music and food vendors at the event, which is expected to be attended by several astronomy and science clubs, including the Custer Institute, and professors and students from Stony Brook University and Suffolk Community College.
“We’re giving away thousands of dollars of prizes, door prize style,” store manager Robert Becker said. “The prizes are from donations from manufacturers. It should be a good time.”
As niche of a store as Camera Concepts is (one of the 30 largest dealers for telescopes and high-end optics in the nation), several of its customers from Patchogue have traveled across Long Island to make a purchase at the new location, making relocation less of an issue than it would be for stores of other specializations.
Once a business whose overhead costs could be covered by camera film development alone, Camera Concepts invested heavily into telescope sales in the late 1990s, when it recognized the digital age would hinder its camera revenue.
“When digital cameras came out, it killed the old business models, since the big stores, the Wal-Marts and whatnot, were selling them,” Becker said. “We had to reinvent ourselves. Astronomy is 70 to 80 percent of our business now.”
Today, a majority of the store’s sales are done online. Instead of competing against other photo shops, once a staple in every Long Island village, the company is competing with retailers across the country and around the globe.
“If this was 10-12 years ago, we would have never moved, because we were so dependent on the local business,” Norwood said. “Our internet business has increased exponentially. A lot of our business is done online. It almost doesn’t matter where we are. I always tell people, I could do this out of my garage if I really wanted to”