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Capital Business
Posted at 04:01 PM ET, 02/08/2012

Penn Camera locations scooped up by Calumet Photo

A bankruptcy judge has given Chicago-based retailer Calumet Photographic the go-ahead to assume all three locations of Penn Camera Exchange for $600,000, according to court documents.

The deal comes a month after the Beltsville-based photography store filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed five of its eight locations in the Washington area.

Under the terms of the sales agreement, Calumet will assume the assets and leases for the remaining stores in Rockville, Tysons Corner and on E Street NW. They will continue to operate under the Penn Camera banner. The purchase price includes $250,000 in cash at closing and a $350,000 promissory note due in six months. The buyer has also assumed up to $100,000 of gift card liability.

Calumet, with more than 25 retail stores throughout the United States and Europe, is asking all Penn Camera employees to re-apply for their jobs, according to Calumet president Brian Carroll. He said the company hopes to retain a majority of the 40 or so members of the staff.

No decision has been reached on whether Penn Camera president Jeffrey Zweig, whose family founded the company 58 years ago, will remain. Members of the Zweig family referred all questions to Calumet.

“Penn Camera, like Calumet, has a long legacy in photography and the same type of passionate people. Culturally, it seems like it will be a seamless integration,” Carroll said.

Customers, he added, can expect a wider selection of products, more training workshops and expanded rental services. Carroll noted that Calumet will honor outstanding gift cards.

“We just want to carry on what Penn has developed over the years,” he said. “[This deal] will be good for the community, especially as far as photography is concerned.”

Penn Camera is one of the region’s best known spots for photography equipment and workshops. With its selection and experienced technicians, the company rivaled another homegrown retailer, Ritz Camera. Ritz went through its own bankruptcy tribulations in 2008, but emerged from the reorganization still kicking.

As it stands, Penn Camera has $4.4 million in outstanding debt, according to court records. Canon USA and Nikon are the company’s two largest creditors, owed more than $700,000 each.

In a statement announcing the filing, Penn Camera attributed the decision to shrink its business to “a dramatic decline in sales performance during the preceding holiday period.”

By  |  04:01 PM ET, 02/08/2012

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