Since 1898, three generations of the Rowe Family have been serving Rochester and Upstate New York with quality products at fair prices. That family tradition continues as we continue to grow and serve our community.
Rowe Photo has two superb locations, an extraordinary inventory of fine products, world famous brand names and the kind of professional advice you need to assist in your selection.
A Message from Owner Richard Rowe
I'm often asked how our business has survived and even prospered since 1898, after all, not too many family-owned businesses last over 100 years and three generations. The answer has always been, take care of your customers, and treat them the way you would like to be treated.
If you always think about their welfare, before yours, they'll keep coming back and probably bring their friends in with them. Our customers expect a high level of service and aren't so much shopping for a camera or other electronic item, as they are trying to find the solution to a problem.
My kids are in sports and I can't get any good pictures of them, can you help me?" or "Do you think I can really fit a flat screen TV on my wall and how does it get installed?" Since 1898 we have been in the business of solving problems, the sale of equipment and services is a result of a happy, satisfied customer. Satisfying the customers' needs comes first and the sale, if properly presented, always follows.
As proof of this winning policy, understand that when Charles M. Rowe first opened up his business in 1898, it was not only one of the first camera stores in Rochester, but also carried and sold bicycles. An odd combination you would think until you look at the needs of the buying public at that time. Stressing personalized service, Charles was very successful with his new business and soon expanded into a photo studio, taking photographs for people who could not handle the primitive way early photographic equipment worked.
As the business grew, he relocated to better areas in the city of Rochester; Front Street, St. Paul Blvd., South Clinton Ave. and finally to West Main Street. Charles knew George Eastman (founder of Eastman Kodak) and Rowe obtained the first Kodak dealership in Rochester becoming one of the earliest Kodak dealers in the nation.
Howard J. Rowe, Charles's son, took over the business after the Great Depression and after Charles became too ill to continue. Howard was more of a photographer and expanded the studio under the name Rowe Commercial Photographers. Harriett, Howard's wife, took care of the bookkeeping and expanded the retail camera store under the name of Rochester Camera Exchange, catering mainly to professional photographers and RIT students, as the institute at that time was directly behind Rowe's West Main Street location.
During 1969 we relocated from downtown to our present location on Mt. Hope Ave. The center of the city was not an area that people wished to shop any longer and we felt that the Mt. Hope area had great potential being near the U of R, Strong Hospital, MCC, Monroe community Hospital and Monroe Social Services. At this time, while attending RIT, I joined the business working as an assistant photographer to my father and helped my mother expand the retail store. The studio name was changed to Rowe Professional Photographers to reflect that we did more than just commercial shooting and the retail store's name was changed to Rowe Photographic Supplies.
By the time I took full control of the business, the amount of work that the studio was doing had started to shrink. This was a direct result of manufacturing and light industrial plants moving down south to find cheaper labor and taxes. The retail store had developed a large and steady customer base due to a wide variety of cameras and lenses - offering the largest darkroom inventory in the city.
After my parents were no longer involved in daily operations, it was decided to eliminate the studio and put all the concentration toward the retail store. This decision has served us well, as we diversified into consumer electronics and mini-lab services.
As our founder, Charles gave the customers what they wanted with personalized service in an era of primitive photography. And as Howard and Harriett expanded their selection of goods and services to better serve their customers, we are today continuing to adjust to our customers future wants and needs. During this ongoing process, we must never forget what keeps our customers purchasing, and more importantly, returning to our stores. If we personally solve their problems with knowledge, honesty and respect they will purchase, return, and bring their friends, assuring the Rowe organization many more years of operation.