Back in 1918, after having been in the United States for only 4 years, Edwin, at 20 years old, opened his first store at 33 W. Monroe St, in the heart of downtown Chicago. To be more accurate, Edwin’s store was actually located in the basement, but the landlord rented the front window to him to display his merchandise. Customers would come in and then be directed to the basement where his inventory was kept and business was conducted. His philosophy was evident the day he began his business; provide courteous and outstanding service along with honest value to each and every customer.
In the late 70's, Shutan was the only camera store to run consistent TV advertising in the Chicago market. This was on WGN Channel 9. Anxious to get more viewers, WGN became a Superstation and “exported” its signal to smaller municipalities and rural areas throughout the Midwest. Those far-reaching TV commercials, along with national ads in the Wall Street Journal, gave Shutan the incentive to add a toll-free 800 number to expand their growing mail-order business.
In 1982, with a major re-hab looming on the building at Wacker and LaSalle, the Shutan family embarked on construction of a brand new, 5,000 sq. ft. flagship store. The location at 312 W. Randolph St. had all new, custom cabinetry, tiled floors, and glass covered structural columns. The architectural design by S. Guy Fishman and Associates was coupled with completion by Pepper Construction Co. The store opened to much fanfare with executives of major camera manufacturers, as well as industry competitors, visiting to take a look.
In 2008, after 90 years in business, with many Chicago and suburban locations having come and gone, the last Shutan store in Vernon Hills closed its doors for good.
In the photographs below, there’s a consistent theme among every Shutan store… large, small, old, or new. A common belief that Edwin passed on to his sons and that they then passed on to their sons: store cleanliness, large inventory, organized show cases, and attention-grabbing display windows. Those qualities, along with competitive prices and a knowledgeable sales staff put Shutan Camera in a class of its own.
1918 to 1922 • 33 W. Monroe St. Chicago, IL
Besides photographic equipment, Edwin also sold many other items including Kewpie dolls, greeting cards, pen and pencil sets, razor blades, and other sundries.
1922 to 1924 • 173 W. Washington St. Chicago, IL
Edwin Shutan circa 1930's.
Exterior window displays meticulously organized, greeting cards 25 for 1.95, and Kodak cameras for as little as $10.99.
1922 to 1966 • 153 W. Washington St. Chicago, IL
Circa 1952, LaSalle and Washington in downtown Chicago was famous for being the home of the Chicago Stock Exchange. The building's entrance was on LaSalle St. and around the corner on Washington St. was Shutan Camera Co. Edwin's catchy ad slogan "One Door West of LaSalle" was still usable when Shutan moved to Wacker Drive in 1966.
Chicago Stock Exchange Building, Chicago, IL, 1892-1984. Adler and Sullivan, architects. Richard Nickel, photographer. Richard Nickel Archive, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago. Digital File # 201006_110620-003.
A rare color photo of the exterior window display, August 1956.
Edwin with a Polaroid model 800 counter display.
Scott Shutan holding what looks to be a very heavy 4x5 view camera!
Sons Harold and Melvin being shown the finer points of a Nikon F by father Edwin, along with employee Robert “Mac” McElroy.
Melvin Shutan with his camera of choice: a Leica 35mm
Melvin, Edwin, and their Kodak sales rep.
1966 to 1983 • 153 W. Wacker Dr. Chicago, IL
Expanding the store to include the space next door meant relocating the existing cabinetry from the film department.
This area will become the new movie department and eventually the video department.
Most cabinetry was made on-location by skilled carpenters.
The area to the left of the shiny floor was the new addition.
Interior window displays in the Builder’s Building at 228 N. LaSalle St.
The new film and photofinishing department.
Products were always arranged like perfect “soldiers” in all our showcases. Are you diggin’ this customer’s 70s style?
Having a darkroom and enlarger at home was commonplace. Watching an image appear on a blank piece of paper being bathed in liquid developer was magical!
1983 to 2000 • 312 W. Randolph St. Chicago, IL
"Miles and miles" of custom cabinetry from Pepper Construction Co.
1991 to 1995 • 174 W. Adams St. Chicago, IL
A set of construction sketches for the Adams St. location.
1993 to 2006 • 589 Central Ave. Highland Park, IL
(photos coming soon)
2006 to 2008 • 1852 First St. Highland Park, IL
2000 to 2008 • 100 N. Fairway Dr. Vernon Hills, IL
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Updated February 11th, 2017