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Central Camera, Looted And Burned In May, Is Reopening Next Door

Fans of the historic camera shop donated more than $200,000 after it was destroyed May 30 in the unrest that followed the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.

Central Camera, a 121-year-old camera shop in the Loop, was destroyed by a fire during widespread demonstrations protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
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THE LOOP — Central Camera, the Loop camera store that brought in shoppers from around the world for more than 120 years until it burned this year, will open a temporary store Sept. 1.

The store at 228 S. Wabash Ave. will be next door to the original store, which was looted and burned May 30. Central Camera will operate at that location while the destroyed store at 230 S. Wabash is rebuilt, owner Don Flesch said.

He predicted the grand reopening for the store at its old location will take place in late January or February.

“… There’s no way to know,” Flesch said. “There’s so much structural damage to the building from the fire.”

Rebuilding the store — which opened in 1899 and suffered a total loss in May, with only its iconic neon sign surviving — is being paid for by insurance and a GoFundMe campaign started by Flesch’s daughter and one of his employees. 

To date, the campaign, which is still active, has brought in more than $200,000.

“It’s been unbelievable, and not because it’s money, but those messages they send, those nice people,” Flesch said. “They write things like ‘I wish I could give more but it’s only $5’ — well, hey, that’s so big for you and also so big for us. It doesn’t make a difference how much it is, it’s from the heart. Your heart is big and our heart bumps into it along [the] way.”

Though Flesch’s longtime business was destroyed, he wrote in the aftermath that “it doesn’t compare to the loss of George Floyd’s life and the countless other black lives lost.”

On Monday, after Flesch posted the store’s plans on its Facebook page, many posted comments wishing him well.

“We might just have to book a trip to Chicago to celebrate with you,” one person wrote.

“Best news I’ve read in a long time,” another person wrote.

Central Camera will continue online sales and its curbside tent sales 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in front of the store.

Central Camera Co., a 121-year-old camera shop in the Loop, was destroyed by a fire during widespread demonstrations protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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