The first thing I noticed about Joel Paymer when I went to visit him at his new store in Old Bethpage, Long Island, was how relaxed he looked. The man has finally gotten some sleep.
“I worked in New York City for 32 years, and the last 22 years I had to get up at 3:45 in the morning. An hour and a half commute each way took its toll. Now, I’m home in 10 minutes.”
Ed, Joel and Doug Paymer decided, after many years, to move their Camera Land store out of Manhattan and into the suburbs. It’s a big change, but it made sense for a lot of reasons.
“The world has changed,” said Joel Paymer, “Close to 70% of our business is on the Internet now. We were paying an exorbitant amount of rent in New York City, and in many cases we were just shipping boxes. It just didn’t make sense. Now, we’re paying around 15% of what we were paying in Manhattan, and we have room to grow.”
The store is beautifully laid out, with branded showcase displays throughout. Canon, Ricoh, Tamron, Sony, Nikon, Fujifilm, Olympus and Sigma are all represented, among others. And they’re adding a GoPro lineup in a few weeks.
There are also walls filled with accessories, including camera bags and tripods. Paymer sees an increase in this business as well, due to the increased display areas.
“We had a choice: we could go to a smaller store and continue on with our Internet business leading the way,” said Paymer, “or we could complement our Internet business with a showcase for our other products. We decided this was certainly the way to go. We wanted a large brick-and-mortar presence, and our goal is to have a fair balance of Internet and in-store sales.”
The new store also has a classroom—something they didn’t have the luxury of having in their Manhattan location. “We’re excited to bring in customers through our learning center,” said Paymer. “We realize it will be a slow build, but everything we’re doing now is pointing toward building traffic in the store.”
According to Paymer, the new Camera Land is the largest camera store on Long Island, and it is the only sport optics store on Long Island as well. The sport optics presence alone, led by Doug Paymer, makes it a unique destination. Displays by Leupold, Vortex and Minox are proudly displayed at the front of the store.
“This is a huge complement to the enormous optics business Camera Land has done on the Internet for years. We sold more than 10,000 riflescopes last year alone, and we’re truly an international business.”
The next goal is to increase foot traffic into the new location, which Paymer plans to do with an extensive advertising and promotion campaign. “We have an 11-week ad campaign on FIOS and Cablevision, as well as the local radio, newspapers and magazines. We’re going to be everywhere; we’re going to get the word out.”
They’re also scheduling vendors for events. “We already have Canon, Sony and Tamron events lined up, and more are on the way. Vendors are thrilled with this move, and they’re lining up to support us in a big way.”
Joel Paymer continues to have an optimistic view of the camera business. “We’re selling a lot of mirrorless cameras, and our lens business is good. There are a lot of photo enthusiasts here on Long Island and also a lot of soccer moms who want to take great pictures. We’re excited to have a destination for them to come and talk to us, and learn from us.”
Camera Land had its official grand opening on February 6–7, 2015 and the initial crowds gave the Paymer family reason for high expectations.
Does he miss that 3:45 a.m. alarm in the morning and running for the train at night? “I leave the store now at 6:30 and I’m home by 6:40. What do you think?”