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Camera dealers focus on cooperation, niche markets.

Byline: Retail Notebook by The Register-Guard

EXPANDED FOCUS: Two long-time local retail photography businesses have decided that the way to cope with tough times is to join forces.

Jim and Janet Dotson, owners of Dot Dotson's Camera on Willamette Street in Eugene, have bought Gerlach's Camera Centers, which has a store in Eugene next to the University of Oregon campus, and a store on Centennial Boulevard in Springfield. Purchase terms were not disclosed.

Competition for camera products from big-box discounters is intense these days, Janet Dotson said, so independent retailers have to seek out special niches. Mass merchandisers such as Costco "are just blowing the prices out," she said. "There's no (profit) margin in the hard goods" such as cameras, she said.

Dot Dotson's has made photo finishing, including digital printing, its specialty, Dotson said. The Gerlach's store on Centennial, meanwhile, has a specialized mini-lab, while the UO campus store caters to student needs, such as passport pictures, Dotson said.

Nationwide, the ranks of independent camera stores has dwindled as consumers pursue the lowest prices from discount stores, Dotson said.

Ken Eilers, who co-owned the Gerlach's stores, is now working for Dot Dotson's in sales, Dotson said. Eilers had grown tired of store management, she said.

The three stores employ a total of about 30 people, Dotson said. Dot Dotson's will keep the Gerlach's name, she said.

Both businesses have been around for decades: Dot Dotson's was founded in 1931; Gerlach's was founded in 1938.

WESTWARD: Centennial Bank is moving its Valley River Center branch 400 feet westward, to a more prominent spot.

The move takes the six-employee branch to the intersection of Valley River Drive and Goodpasture Island Road, right next to the Petco pet products store.

The branch is currently in a standalone building that's part of a commercial strip on the north side of Valley River Drive that is owned by Valley River Center.

In connection with the move, Valley River Center will demolish the current bank branch and turn it into parking, said Lorri Morse, senior vice president at Centennial. Centennial will build the new branch at the western end of the commercial strip.

The new addition will total 3,700-square-feet, according to plans submitted to the city. The bank will take 2,500 square feet and lease out the rest, Morse said. The bank hasn't found a tenant yet, Morse said.

Under the deal with Valley River Center, Centennial will lease the land from the mall and will own the building, Morse said.

The construction will cost $350,000, according to the bank's building permit application.

Centennial likes the new spot because it is more prominent, Morse said. The bank hopes to begin construction soon and complete the job by late summer.

Compiled by business editor Christian Wihtol. Retail Notebook runs Tuesdays. To include items, call 338-2359, or e-mail erusso@guardnet.com.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 30, 2002
Words:477
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