The shop I worked at in the early 80's, Northwest Telescope and Binocular, was in the Raleigh Hills suburb of Portland. As I recall, we were on Scholls Ferry Road. It was a modest shop, maybe 20' x 30' in the showroom, with display cases on one side and telescopes out in the middle. One wall was decorated with that giant mural of the earthrise over the moon, and the one of Saturn was on another wall.
The owner, Marshall, was quite the character, but always treated customers well. We sold Celestron, Pentax, and JSO telescopes while I was there, along with Nikon, Fujinon, Pentax, Zeiss, Swarovski, and Steiner binoculars. Marshall knew someone who had connections in Japan, who got us the JSO scopes. And he was one of the first to import Steiner military binoculars, especially the ones with the built in compass and rangefinder.
He figured that he could make a killing by advertising them in Soldier of Fortune magazine, and started doing mail-order. But we also had some strange folks in camo walk in and buy them with cash. I remember one was a bit jumpy about our insistence that we inspect them before he could take them (we always inspected the binoculars, especially after getting a pair from Pentax that had a big, black reject mark on one objective). He was clearly torn between wanting to slip out unnoticed and admiring our dedication to ensuring that his pair was fully functional.
We also had some funny customers around the holidays. I remember a guy coming in and telling us that his wife was out shopping and probably coming to see us. She didn't know he was out of the house, and could we quickly help him pick out a scope, which we did. Sure enough, about 15 minutes after he left, she walked in, and we convinced her (with much questioning about her husband's interests and never letting on that he'd been there) that the scope he wanted would be the best choice for him. A couple of weeks later she came by to thank us, because her husband was so pleased with what we had advised her to buy. He also came in a while later for some accessories, and thanked us for making her feel like such a success.
I left the shop around '84, and I think he kept it going until about 1990. But even before then he said he was getting killed by the mail order business from the big New York camera stores, and the gray market. He couldn't compete on price via mail order for the binoculars, and the telescope market crashed after Halley (and the drop in quality from Celestron). OMSI had also started carrying Celestron in their museum shop, along with a couple of local camera stores. He moved to Phoenix and went back into the commercial laundry business (which is what he did in Detroit, before moving to Oregon).
I just looked on Google street view, and I think the building is still there. If it's the one I think it is, it was most recently a deli, but now for lease. It brought back memories of the days when I would arrive early and unlock those doors, turn on the lights, and hang the open sign.
Edited by ccwemyss, 30 September 2021 - 07:40 PM.