Magazine Article


The Jersey Juxtaposition
Bergen County Camera merges unsurpassed industry knowledge, top-notch customer service, and a passion for photography to serve the customers of the Garden State and beyond.

Tom and the Bergen County Camera Management Team: (l. to r.) Robert Passman, Abigail Passman, Paul Carretta, Tom Gramegna (seated), Bob Gramegna, and John Tworsky
Ed Ajaj

Bergen County Camera’s inviting interior beckons customers to come inside to browse, and tap into the staff’s knowledge.
James VanZetta

Bergen County Camera’s front counter serves as the customer service center.
James VanZetta

The store’s center island, as viewed from the processing counter, features some of Bergen County Camera’s hottest items.
James VanZetta

Gallery Two Seventy presents fine-art photos for both viewing and sale purposes.
James VanZetta

Bergen County Camera offers customers a varied mix of merchandise, including telescopes and optics, darkroom supplies, and more.
James VanZetta

Enter Gallery Two Seventy, which takes its name not only from the store’s address at 270 Westwood Avenue, but also serves as an homage of sorts to Alfred Stieglitz’s Gallery 292. “I thought the gallery would be a jewel to set the store off and act as inspiration for people—they could see something and really be inspired by it,” he explains. “One of the first shows we did was a guy who just used view cameras and made platinum prints. We actually sold a couple of view cameras as a result of people seeing that and thinking, ‘I want to do stuff like that.’”

The gallery sells its wares subtly. “We don’t beat people over the head with it. People think it’s on display for display purposes, so it’s a constant educational process. But I think a huge price tag on the front of each print would take away from the aesthetic quality.”

Tom concedes that the fine-art gallery idea may not be the answer for every photo retailer. “But if you’ve got the love yourself, and the passion for it, which I do (I personally own over 300 fine-art collectible photographs, which I’ve been collecting since I was 13), then it’s something that you can share with others,” he says. “I think it keeps the discussion centered on photography—you have other things to talk to your customers about besides the equipment.”

Spreading the Word

Knowing not only today’s market and the equipment, but also where photography came from, is important to Tom. “I’m a student of the history of photography,” he says. “Having the long view, looking at almost 200 years of photographic history, insulates you a bit from the trend of the moment. It gives you a little better perspective on what’s happening at the very moment.”

The store’s educational offerings keeps its customers in the know as well. Toward that end, Bergen County Camera offers classes, online tutorials, and on-location trips where customers can hone their picture-taking skills. “The classes we offer range from a basic photography class to digital workflow,” he says. “We’re also doing in-home consulting on a limited basis, and we’re in the process of adding a room where people will be able to come to us and get one-on-one Photoshop training.” This is where John Tworsky has proven especially valuable. “John is and has been particularly instrumental on the educational front,” says Tom.

Emailed newsletters are another high-tech way the store keeps its customers in the loop. “The newsletters are divided into many different categories: there’s a Nikon newsletter, a Leica newsletter, a Canon newsletter, a gallery newsletter, a general events newsletter,” he explains. “There’s even a weekly used-equipment newsletter that goes out to people who opt in for it.”

One creative way Bergen County Camera keeps their name out there while simultaneously helping local charities is with a special gift-card promotion. “We’ll get solicitations from various organizations who want a donation for a silent auction or something like that,” he says. “Rather than giving a donation, we find out how many people are going to be at a particular event and then give everyone a $10 Bergen County Camera gift card.” For every person who redeems the gift card, Bergen County Camera donates the same amount back to the charity. “You’re only paying for the people who are walking through the door—if no one walks through your door, it only costs you what it cost to print up the cards,” he continues. “But people are left with a favorable impression of your business, and it’s an interesting way to handle charitable solicitations. If there were 150 people at an event, perhaps 50 will come back to the store. That’s $500 you’ve spent. But that’s also 50 new impressions you didn’t have before. What would you have spent for an ad in the newspaper?”

In the end, Tom and his staff embrace the constant ebb and flow of the marketplace and the changes that come their way. “Change is the only inevitable thing,” he says. ‘If you don’t lose your way about what got you into the business to begin with, then the challenges you face are all surmountable. If you got into this business to get rich quick, you probably learned early on you were in the wrong business. But if you love photography and people and you make that the centerpiece of what you do, people will respond to that. It’s amazing when you look back through the products we used to sell and what we’re selling now. There’s not a lot of resemblance. But it’s still the same basic thing—it’s still photography, and it’s still helping people create and guard their memories.”