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Camera Hero Rides Yellow Car, Not White Horse

New company rides in to keep former Ritz Camera location open as a new camera shop.

Paoli camera enthusiasts got a hero Wednesday.

Claire Schweitzer doesn't wear a suit of armor. Wednesday she was dressed in jeans and a blue Cardinal Camera collared shirt. She doesn't ride a big white horse. She drives a little yellow sedan that's wrapped in the Cardinal Camera logo.

She's not a corporate raider. In the case of the Paoli Ritz Camera store location, she's more like a corporate savior.

Schweitzer arrived in Paoli around lunch time on Wednesday with some good, make that great, news for Ritz Camera employees who were counting down the days to unemployment even as customers were counting down the days to the closing of a beloved camera store.

Schweitzer doesn't have a formal title with the three generation, family-owned Cardinal Camera chain based in Landsdale, Montgomery County.  For the Ritz empoyees who are applying for jobs at the new Cardinal Camera store "angel" might be a good title.

Schweitzer was the top management messenger who came to announce that Cardinal Camera is taking over the leases and buying much of the equipment in the Paoli store and 10 other Ritz locations from North Carolina to New Hampshire.

Cardinal is not buying the Ritz company, just the leases and some equipment.

So when the new Cardinal Camera opens on Monday in The Paoli Shopping Center it will not be the same old Ritz but under a different name. It will be a whole new company and store. It's just that in this case the storefront will not have been sitting vacant while a new shop or owner was considering moving in.

What it means for customers

It's not clear yet if Cardinal will honor contracts or gift cards or warranties issued by Ritz. They would not be under any obligation to do so. This is an entirely separate company.

What is clear from Schweitzer's comments to Patch and the Ritz employees is that Cardinal is an up-to-the minute camera store that values old fashioned customer service and highly trained employees. They sell all the digital gizmos and gadgets, but also have cameras that still use actual film.

Schweitzer spent much of Wednesday interviewing Ritz employees for new jobs at Carindal. The Ritz employees, who until lunch time on Wednesday were staring at the prospect of unemployment, are now hoping they'll hired and will be there to greet familiar customers when Cardinal opens on Monday.  Because it is a completely new company and not Ritz under new management and name the Ritz employees need to go through inteviews and background checks.

Schweitzer says Cardinal is a third generation family owned and operated business. It was started by Kurt Seelig's grandfather in Lansdale in 1937 and has passed from grandfather to son to grandson. Until now the chain had 11 stores. The new lease and assest purchase will literally double the chain to 22 stores virtually overnight.

"Ritz was a family-run business, we are a family-run business," Schweitzer tells Patch. "We will go above and beyond for our customers. We give you an education, not just a box," she explained referring to "big box" stores that often sell cameras and equipment without offering any training.

Cardinal plans to offer many of the same services that were available at Ritz, and a few more to boot. Schewitzer says Cardinal will sell and process actual rolls of film (both color and black and white). Cardinal also offers regular printing of digital of photos as well as custom printing on paper, metals, t-shirts, posters and signs.

The company will also offer classes in various photography related subjects. "We cater to the customer," Schweitzer tells Patch. They are also committed to keeping the art and craft of photography alive and well in the digital era. 

If there's something you need related to photogrpahy Cardinal can probably help you find it-starting Monday in the former Ritz location in Paoli Shopping Center. Chances are you'll recognize many of the same familiar faces who've been working in that same location for years.

With new jobs their smiles just may be a little brighter.

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