Discover some history about Chicago's Premier Camera Store!

1918: At just 20 years old, Edwin Shutin (not a misprint) opened his store under the name Chicago Camera Co. Located on Monroe near State Street in downtown Chicago, he sold many different types of items including Kewpie Dolls that can be seen in the lower left corner of this early photograph. Besides cameras, other items he carried were pen and pencil sets from iconic names like Cross and Schaeffer, and the area’s largest selection of greeting cards.

 

1922: For reasons unknown, Edwin had his last name legally changed to Shutan. The sign outside his store was changed to Shutan Camera Co. This image is of the letter he sent to Eastman Kodak Co. requesting that they change the spelling of his name in their records and advertising.

Click HERE to read the letter.

Circa 1920s: Edwin, (middle row, far left) played in a local baseball league. He was the team manager. They played in Humboldt Park and Garfield Park on Chicago's West side. When the gambling got heavy on the sidelines, Edwin decided he wanted no part of that, so he quit playing! Rexo was a manufacturer of chemicals and photo products. It’s unknown if that was the connection for the sponsorship name on their jerseys.

1932: Edwin Shutan was charged $100/mo. rent for his store at 153 W. Washington Street. Shown here is his June invoice indicating he promptly paid it on June 2nd.

1930s: In what is thought to have been an effort to generate more foot traffic, Edwin dedicates a section of his small store for a Book Rental Library and hires a staff librarian, Miss Michaels. Edwin carried all the latest books and charged just 10 cents for three days with no deposit or membership required.  As you can see, his library was immaculate and well-stocked with the latest books from authors such as Thornton Wilder, Alexander Woolcott, and Lloyd C. Douglas to name a few. Edwin even had his own book covers printed up!

Mid-1940s: Jerry Lewis performed often at the Chez Paree nightclub in downtown Chicago. He and Mel Shutan soon became good friends. One day in 1946 Jerry visited Shutan Camera Co. to buy his very first movie camera for an important occasion: the birth of his first child Gary. That purchase may have spawned Jerry’s love for filmmaking. Shown here in our

Washington Street store, Lewis is flanked by his manager Irving Kaye, Shutan employee Manny Reeder, and Mel Shutan on the far right. Jerry and Mel were both in their early 20s!

1955: In this letter written to sons Harold and Mel, Jerry Lewis offers his hospitality to their father Edwin for his upcoming visit to California.

1959: A Nikon trade magazine article featured Edwin with sons Harold and Melvin.

Click HERE to read the full story.

1960s: The reel-to-reel tape recorder was so popular that there were over 100 brands being produced! Shutan Camera had a very complete audio department and carried many reel-to-reel recorders from famous makes such as Uher, Panasonic, Sony, Tandberg, Wollensak, Roberts, and others.

1963: In town for the March dedication of O'Hare Airport, President John F. Kennedy and Mayor Richard J. Daley travel east on Washington Street past our store. Ironically, President Kennedy is holding his forehead.

Photo © Melvin Shutan.

1966: Jerry was a pioneer in the application of “video assist”, a system which allowed a filmmaker to see a live video image that is nearly identical to what the film camera is photographing. The video assist system is extensively used in all true-film productions today. Jerry also taught a filmmaking class at the UCLA film school. Two of his young students were Steven Spielberg and George Lucas!

1970: Jerry Lewis for the first time directing a picture in which he does not also star in. One More Time starred Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford. A kitschy film about two business partners who lose their nightclub and turn to Lawford’s twin brother (played by Lawford) for help. A sequel to the 1968 film Salt and Pepper. Can you guess who plays who?

1970s: Our store on the corner of Wacker Dr. and LaSalle street was on the ground floor of an office building. Also located in that building was the headquarters for Chicago Public Schools. Whenever teacher contracts were up for renewal, rest assured the teachers took to the streets to make their demands be heard. This Tribune photo shows the protesters in front of our store. These events brought sense to the phrase "Katy, bar the door" (a warning of the approach of trouble).

Late 1970s: Though we haven't located the printed story yet, shown here is a Tribune photographer taking a photo of brothers Harold and Mel along with the final image.

1970s thru 1990s: As years went by, Jerry stayed in touch with the Shutan family and always visited our store for some camaraderie and of course, to purchase his camera equipment. He was an avid still photographer and continually purchased the latest Nikon and Leica camera equipment.

1987: Though we didn’t always get the camera out to take photos … it wasn’t uncommon for Hollywood stars to visit our store. Shown here with Mel and Scott, Sean Connery was in town for the filming of The Untouchables.

1987: When the writers for Japan Imaging magazine came to the U.S. for a Photo Marketing Association trade show in Las Vegas, they made a stop in Chicago to visit our store - the ONLY store to be featured in their 108-page issue. Read the translated article HERE.

1991: “They’ve been through it all: prosperity, depression, a world war, peace, and the Cubbies. The Shutan family business was started 73 years ago by Edwin B. Shutan. Now his grandchildren run the show, and thanks to Scott, Bob, their dad Melvin and their cousin Mark, Shutan Camera & Video thrives in the Windy City” A profile on our store that appeared in the April 1991 issue of Photo Business magazine.

Read the full article HERE.

1990s: A lunch time Solar Eclipse drew a large crowd in front of our Randolph Street store. We set up professional-grade telescopes on the sidewalk and handed out handheld solar viewing filters to everyone. Reminiscent of those iconic movie theater photos from the 1950s where everyone is wearing 3D glasses!

1994: When we opened our store in Highland Park, IL, we were featured in a Pioneer Press story. Shown in the photo are Scott, Mel, Mark, and Bob.

Read the full story HERE.

Shooting color slide film was popular from when Kodachrome was first invented in 1935 through its demise in 2009. We sold thousands of slide projectors. We had a “focus” slide produced and placed it in to every projector’s film slot. With the slide tray in place and the power turned on, Shutan’s focus slide was the first thing audiences would see. Pretty clever, eh?

When Edwin first opened his store in 1918, cameras were the smallest part of his inventory. As time progressed he started carrying more photographic equipment and changed the name to Shutan Camera Co. In the 80s as home video became more affordable, our name changed once again to Shutan Camera & Video. You can also see the progression of how our logo started out as a simple beam of light passing through a lens to modern-art interpretation of a camera and lens.

As years passed and store location changed... so did our business card design.

2015: Due to the ease of an Internet search, it’s not uncommon for Bob to get emails from people who have found old cameras in their attic or at a flea market with a Shutan label firmly attached. Practically every camera we sold had our label inside the film door as a constant reminder to the customer of where the camera was bought and where they could return for expert advice. Through the years, as cameras became smaller … so did our label!

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Updated February 11th, 2017