Camera Shop Shutters, Its Long Kodak Moment Over

Ferranti-Dege, a Square staple since 1955, shuts its doors amid uncertainty

Over half a century after he first opened the photography shop in Harvard Square, Anthony “Tony” C. Ferranti ’46 shut its doors over the weekend.

On Friday, Ferranti, now age 82, gathered with customers and former employees at the Mass. Ave. shop, Ferranti-Dege, which has closed due to financial difficulties and upcoming Harvard Real Estate (HRES) renovations to the building that houses his store.

Customers and former employees thanked Ferranti for operating his store since 1955 and said their good-byes. One woman came in with flowers for the employees.

“Our camera store was wonderful in the ’60s, in the ’70s, in the ’80s, in the ’90s, but it’s not what people are looking for in the new century,” said Ferranti, surrounded by friends, loyal customers, employees, and family. “You don’t need as many products for digital photography, and it’s a different type of product that you need.”

Everything in the store was sold at half price for its last three days of business, and digital cameras in particular disappeared quickly, according to store employees.

Marilee B. Meyer is an art historian who has lived in Cambridge for 20 years and frequented Ferranti-Dege for advice on cameras, equipment and photography theory.

“I give a lot of lectures and this has been my source for slides and visuals for my work,” Meyer said. “It was a very approachable and comfortable environment. You didn’t feel stupid for asking questions.”

But Ferranti-Dege’s friendly atmosphere was not enough to save it from financial hardship.

“The business has changed a lot in the past five years, so it made sense to close it as gracefully as we could,” Ferranti said.

He said he was also motivated to close his shop at this time by the pending HRES renovations on the building that houses his store, along with graduate-student dorms, and other stores like Toscanini’s and Zinnia’s, the newly opened jewelry store.

As reported in The Crimson last month, those stores will be forced out from this January until next fall for the duration of renovations.

“It will be helpful for Harvard Real Estate to have us out earlier because we take up sufficient basement space,” Ferranti said.

Over the next three weeks, Ferranti will clean out his basement space entirely, allowing HRES to start renovations on his space earlier than planned and thus speed up the entire construction project.

Although some Cambridge residents in the store on Friday said they blamed Harvard for the store’s closing, Ferranti remained loyal to his alma mater.

“I don’t want HRES to get a bum rap for this,” he said. “They don’t deserve it. One of the easiest things in the world is to beat up on Harvard.”

He says that the building that houses his shop is over 100 years old and desperately in need of maintenance.

“I support the renovations and wish it was done 20 years ago,” he said. “We knew for seven years that the renovations would happen, but we didn’t know how extensive they were going to be.”

Since its opening, Ferranti-Dege has been closely linked with Harvard’s students, who have worked as its part-time employees.

“Every year, from 1955 till 2001, we would have applications from one dozen to two dozen students for part-time jobs,” Ferranti said. “Over the years some of our finest employees were fellows from Harvard Crimson.”

Besides Harvard students, employees also came from all other nearby schools, according to Ferranti.

“We have had a succession of employees from Boston University, Harvard, MIT, and Tufts, who have been really golden,” he said. “And we have maintained the friendship. In some cases, their children have come to work for us.”

But beginning with the class of 2005, the applications stopped coming, according to Ferranti.

He said digital photography may contribute to a decreasing interest in traditional photography, and the pervasiveness of software like Adobe Photoshop may make trips to darkrooms more obsolete.

“I will miss it,” Ferranti said of his shop.

—Staff writer Shifra B. Mincer can be reached at smincer@fas.harvard.edu.