Carl Merkin: Inside the Leica Store SoHo New York … So Much More than a Store
Some of you may know that just after the new Leica Store SoHo in New York City had their official opening party in February, I started working there a few days a week. This has since evolved into a full-time staff position and a very interesting chapter in my life with Leica. I feel, as do many customers on their first visit, like a kid in a candy store, except I feel that way five days a week!
It seems like my thirty plus years of experience with Leica, as a photographer, collector, Board Member of the LHSA, and contributing photographer and blogger for Leica Camera, has been a training course for this job. I’ve also had to familiarize myself with all the features of the various cameras and lenses in the current Leica line, from the point-and-shoot models, through the five M-mount cameras, on up to the medium format S camera. I’ve also shot images with many of these cameras and lenses, and often show them to customers who want to see examples of what a particular camera or lens can do. You are also welcome to bring in an SD card and shoot images of your own in the store to examine at home on your computer.
Our customers are as interesting and varied as the product line, and sizing up their needs is the key to helping them enjoy the Leica Store experience. There are those who know exactly what they want and those who need a tour of the whole catalog before they can decide. Some have a price range in mind while to others, price is no object. Many advanced amateurs and professionals who use DSLR cameras just want to know what’s so special about Leica. They each need a different level of information depending on how much they already know about photography, rangefinder cameras in general, and Leica in particular. Some who have gotten too much information from the internet usually need only to hold and use a Leica to set their misconceptions aside. An ever-changing variety of used equipment covering film and digital M, screw-mount, Leica S and R cameras and lenses is also an attractive option for many customers. Because of our location in SoHo, we get to enjoy the patronage of many well-known photographers and celebrities from the sports and entertainment fields, many of whom live in the neighborhood.
Watching the face of a first-time Leica buyer walking out of the store with their new baby is just as much fun as seeing the look of amazement when a seasoned Leica shooter gets their first look at files from the M Monochrom, a camera that sells itself. More on this revolutionary camera in my next blog post!
The store also serves as a resource for Leica information in the form of books and magazines, answers to all kinds of questions about age and value of used equipment, and, of course, workshops and seminars taught by instructors from the Leica Akademie and guest photographers. And there is always a photo exhibition on the walls, currently featuring the work of Los Angeles-based documentary photographer Craig Semetko.