A Sturt Street business that dates back to Ballarat's gold rush era is closing its doors for good.
Thornton Richards Camera House has been a staple of Ballarat since 1872, first opening as photograph studio on the goldfields and evolving over almost 150 years to become the city's home for photography.
Now, however, the business will be closing in the coming weeks as owners Sue and Gerrard Lewis look towards their retirement.
The business has been in the family for almost 70 years after Merv Lewis bought it from Phil Thornton in 1953.
It was originally established by George Richards as Richards and Co., operating for about 10 years before being sold to John Dearden.
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The business was renamed Thornton Richards and Co. after Mr Dearden sold it to Mr Thornton some years later.
Mr Lewis said while the business was affected by the pandemic, the rise of online shopping and mobile photography were also factors.
"We depend heavily on people traveling overseas to both take photos and buy cameras so nothing last year, nothing this year... and obviously just the marketplace has changed," he said
"We sort of look at ourselves a little bit like being the little hardware store next to Bunnings now, so as a world economy, we're just a small part and competitively, we're not as competitive as we used to be so we're just missing those sales because it's all out there online and we just can't compete on such a grand scale.
"We did our numbers after COVID last year and then we just sort of decided that we didn't think it would be worth signing another five-year lease, coming up with that rent because the money just wasn't there anymore."
Given its extensive history, Thornton Richards Camera House holds a treasure trove of memories for many long-time Ballarat residents.
Thankfully, those memories will continue on as the business is releasing is collection of negatives from 1969 to 2000 to the community before donating them to State Library Victoria, where they will be scanned and published online.
"We've had a few that have come in and got them and brought in their old photo which was all deteriorated because the stabilisers weren't strong enough back in the early days of colour and we've printed them up from the negatives and they're just amazing," Ms Lewis said.
The sibling duo said they could not have continued for so long without the support of the community.
"We really want to thank everyone. It's been a great journey and we thank them for their support," Ms Lewis said.
"We couldn't have done it without our customers, that's what's kept us here for so long," Mr Lewis added.
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