North Texas Daily

From family pharmacy to Camera Exchange

From family pharmacy to Camera Exchange

Outside of the Denton Camera Exchange located at 117 Piner St. Denton, Texas.

From family pharmacy to Camera Exchange
January 23
23:17 2018

Talk to almost any Denton local and you’re likely going to hear them refer to the Square as the place to be. It’s packed with coffee shops, bars, restaurants and boutiques of all shapes and sizes. However, just past the glow of the highly regarded Denton Square are some hidden gems known to only the few who wish to explore the world outside of the immediate square.

One block off the square on Piner Street is a little building home to Denton Camera Exchange. In this practically hidden shop, you will find shelves stocked from floor to ceiling filled with camera gear: lenses, polaroids, camera bags and straps, film canisters and more. The shop’s owner, Armand Kohandani even has a few things displayed completely unrelated to film. From skateboards hanging on the walls, to old pharmaceutical bottles on the top shelf and a few portraits scattered around the building, it’s no ordinary camera shop.

Though it’s adored by the locals who have come to know it, Denton Camera Exchange is still relatively unknown to most UNT students.  

“It’s one of those hole-in-the-wall places you don’t know is there unless you’re specifically looking for it,” UNT oboe performance major Maggie Ng said.

Denton Camera Exchange wasn’t always the eclectic shop that it is today, as it was previously a mom and pop pharmacy. Yarbrough’s Professional Pharmacy opened in the 1950s and was owned by Lonnie Yarbrough until he passed away in 2009. A few years later in 2012, Kohandani saw the perfect opportunity to step up and bring Denton its only camera shop.

“Its like history, time and space lined up for me,” Kohandani said. “My folks own the restaurant next door, Mi Casita, and they’ve been there since I was 11 so it’s literally the best possible situation. The building is awesome, and it’s 50 feet away from my parents store that we’ve owned since ‘96.”  

Interestingly enough, Kohandani is aware of the many similarities between pharmacies and his work with cameras.

“Pharmacies back in the day would develop film and they would have a photo department where you could buy film and they would process film a lot of times they would have a film lab,” Kohandani said. “A lot of the times with photo stuff, you’re mixing chemicals and it’s kind of like being in a laboratory for medicine, but it’s a different kind of medicine — it’s for photography.”

In fact, the diverse history of the building is why Kohandani keeps some of the old empty medicine bottles and books from Yarbrough’s Professional Pharmacy on his shelves, as both an homage of sorts and to remind him of how far he has come.

After being only the second business to be in this building since 1950 when the pharmacy opened, Kohandani reiterates how privileged he feels to be in a building with a history such as this.

“I kind of wanted to preserve a whole lot of what was already here,” Kohandani said. “If it was a different building it wouldn’t be the same.”

Anyone who steps into Denton Camera Exchange can instantly feel the old-school atmosphere that has lived on to 2018. Keeping with the “mid-century modern” feel of the building, Kohandani features old media — mainly film cameras — in his store.

“Film has really taken over and it kind of fits the vibe of the building,” Kohandani said. “The building has an old vibe to it and that vintage feel is exuded more so than the whole plastic and rubber digital age.”

With people of all ages wandering into his store, Kohandani welcomes anyone interested in photography with an open lens. From those in their mid-40s to children as young as 8 years-old, he is just happy to see people interested in the art form.

“[Denton Camera Exchange] is here to help people express themselves through photography, specifically film, because there’s not really a resource that exists otherwise,” Kohandani said.

The small business owner also wants Denton residents to know what he doesn’t shouldn’t be compared to the big name camera retailers.

“[This] is not the big camera shops these days that are moving millions of dollars in and out of the store every year.” Kohandani said.

He is not in this business for the money, he’s in it for the love of photography.

Featured Image: Denton Camera Exchange is a local used and vintage camera shop which specializes in old film cameras. Ashley Gallegos

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Mazlin Massey

Mazlin Massey

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