Family-owned McBain Camera, a staple in the Edmonton photography scene for the past 70 years, has been purchased by London Drugs — another family-owned company developed in Western Canada.
But former owner and general manager Neil McBain wants to ensure loyal customers that the stores will continue to run independently with the longtime brand staying put.
“I’m still running the place, none of the employees are being let go,” McBain said in an interview Thursday afternoon. “I don’t think customers will see anything different at all.”
The sale to the B.C.-based retail chain was made official on Dec. 29, said McBain, noting he was in the market for a successor to avoid having to close all together.
“I didn’t want to do that after we’ve been in business all these years,” McBain said. “What it means is that McBain Camera can continue on.”
McBain didn’t disclose how many parties were interested in purchasing the seven locations, but said London Drugs has a foothold in the photography business, making for a perfect fit.
“They have a good reputation in the industry … and they do things first class,” he said. “Couldn’t find a better buyer as far as I’m concerned.”
The popular shop with three locations in Edmonton, as well as stores in St. Albert, Sherwood Par, Red Deer and Lethbridge, was founded by Ross McBain — Neil’s father — who died last May.
Family-owned London Drugs was founded in 1945 and currently has more than 80 stores across Canada’s four western provinces, including seven in Edmonton.
Company president and COO Clint Mahlman said London Drugs hopes to keep the legacy of the McBain family going and improve the photography equipment offerings in both companies.
“Our goal is to strengthen what McBain’s already does well and to add things where we can,” he said Friday.
Mahlman cited printing and photofinishing products as ways London Drugs can help McBain’s grow. On the other hand, McBain Camera has more commercial and high-end gear to help strengthen what London Drugs offers.
“We want to make sure people in Alberta know this is going to make their photography experience even stronger,” Mahlman said.
McBain Camera has served as the go-to shop for local students in need of high-end camera equipment for many years and MacEwan University photojournalism instructor Jason Symington said he hopes the purchase doesn’t end the community involvement McBain’s is known for.
“Is the McBain Camera Show going to happen every year still? Will they be invested in growth of the community?” Symington said of his concerns. “They did stuff, that was the big thing … they didn’t just say they engaged with the community.”
Giving back to the community has always been important to the family-run business and McBain said he believes London Drugs is the first-class company to continue “the McBain way.”
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