Magazine Article


PTN 2003 Dealer of the Year

Idaho Camera
PTN's 2003 Dealer of the Year

Dennis (1.) and Pat Nagel of Idaho Camera in Boise, Idaho have been named PTN's 2003 Dealer of the Year. Now boasting five stores in the Boise metropolitan area, Idaho Camera was founded with one location in 1946 by Robert Nagel, Dennis and Pat's father, and currently serves some 1,000 customers a day.

Idaho Camera - Boise, Idaho

Esto Perpetua. It's the state motto of Idaho. But in case your high school Latin is a little rusty, the phrase translates as: "Let it be Perpetual." A fitting slogan for a state with enduring natural beauty that has been enchanting residents and visitors for centuries.

And also a fitting slogan for PTN's 2003 Dealer of the Year-Idaho Camera, based in Boise, Idaho.

Since Robert Nagel started Idaho Camera in 1946, the company has grown from one store to five locations in the Greater Boise area, a region known as the Treasure Valley for its abundant resources and natural splendors. Currently run by Robert's sons Pat and Dennis Nagel, who have been involved in the business for over 25 years, Idaho Camera boasts a full-service central photo lab that offers traditional and digital services; an in-house repair facility that fixes everything Idaho sells, from traditional and digital cameras to video cameras and binoculars; and a staff of 45 employees split between the five stores, serving some 1,000 customers a day. Add to that Idaho Camera's always packed photography classes that it has offered for the past 30 years; its video classes which have been available for the past 20 years; and its year-old digital classes; and you've got much more than a retail store-you have a veritable photo institution educating over 1,000 Idaho customers annually.

Esto Perpetua, indeed.

"When you're consistently promoting photography and educating your customers, and you've been doing that for 50 years, you can't help but make a difference," Pat says. "And the big box retailers, mass merchants and online competition just can't compete with what we have to offer."

(See sidebar "Class Is In Session")

"We received 1,000 entries this year for the Idaho Camera Outdoors Photo Contest and it's growing more and more," Dennis says, noting that the winners are published in the Statesman in a handsome supplement. "And it's unbelievably great photography. Some of the stuff we get is fantastic."

All this began 57 years ago when Robert, a former bombardier instructor in the Air Force, took his life-long interest in photography and put it into a camera store in downtown Boise. Originally launching the business with two partners, Robert became the sole owner in the late 1950s, as the operation gradually expanded to include a second store in a shopping center on Vista Avenue. Over the years, three more stores have sprouted up in the Boise metropolitan area, with the company's headquarters and service center located at an Idaho Camera location on Orchard Avenue.

"Every ten years we open another store," Pat says.

"We may not move at a fast pace, but we're growing with the Valley," Dennis chimes in.

And that's the Nagel brothers in a nutshell. One brother saying one thing and the other expanding on it. Give and take. Back and forth. It gets to the point in a recent interview with PTN where Pat and Dennis are almost finishing each other's sentences, which is also typical Nagel brothers.

"I've always said these two are like two sides of a coin," Florence Nagel, Pat and Dennis' mom, told the Idaho Statesman in a 1996 story celebrating Idaho Camera's 50th Anniversary. "They each do a part of the business and they each have expertise of their own."

Or as Dennis puts it: "We work together side by side and we can almost read each others' minds."

With sister Kathy Baker also working part time in sales for the store, Idaho Camera is quite clearly a family business. And that's just the way Pat and Dennis like it.

Idaho Camera Orchard store sales floor representatives John Byrne and Christine
Aragon assist customers.

"It sure is a pleasure working with your family. I'd much rather work with my father, my brother, my sister or my kids down the road, than anybody else," Dennis says.

"It makes it fun too," Pat adds. "And it wouldn't be such fun if I didn't have Dennis to work with."

(See sidebar "All in the Family")

But along with being a fun place to work, Idaho Camera is a serious operation, serving a fairly technologically savvy population, many of whom work for either chipmaker Micron Technologies or Hewlett Packard, the Treasure Valley's two biggest employers.

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