simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: You're Not in Kansas
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Monday, 3 March 2008

You're Not in Kansas

I love this place - if you want the feeling of commerce with beehive activity, this is the place to go. Hustle and bustle, from busy to packed - B&H Photo Video sees over 10,000 customers per day. This is the country's largest photo supplier - they have everything. But whether you are a photographer or not, it is a must visit. More photos here.
The store was founded by Herman Schreiber and his wife Blimie (hence B and H) on the Lower East Side in 1973. It relocated to 17th Street in the photo district where it remained until 1997, when it expanded and moved to its current space at 34th Street and 9th Avenue. They occupy 70,000 square feet, not counting corporate offices nearby and a large Brooklyn warehouse.
Everything is a study in organization and good business management. After a purchase is made, goods are sent from a basement stockroom to the pickup area via overhead conveyers with green bins - see photo #3 here. The huge checkout area moves quickly with dozens of clerks taking payment. Take a few final steps to product pickup and voila, your items are already awaiting you!
Many retailers in NYC have become international icons - the Fifth Avenue gold coast retailers - Cartier, Tiffany, Saks, Bergdorf and others like Macy's. These stores all have a rich history, with many being founded in the mid 1800s. Their mythic proportions are made more indelible by the historic properties they inhabit in prime locations.
B&H Photo shares none of these attributes but has achieved iconic status in its own unique, New York way. Although large, the single location provides for the focus and expertise not typically found in a chain store. And B&H is no stranger to competitive pricing - they built their reputation on supplying professionals with equipment at rock bottom prices. So the Internet has not thrown them - they aggressively market and sell online. There is ZERO pressure to buy - none of the salesman are on commission. The return policy is very generous.
Visiting here is also a cultural experience - B&H is staffed predominantly by orthodox Jews - bearded men with white shirts, black pants, many with payot (sidelock hair curls), and tzitzis (white cords hanging from the waist). For many visitors, the site of this entire spectacle serves as a good reminder that You're Not in Kansas Anymore :)


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