I can’t believe it. Ritz Camera Centers, a huge retail photography chain, filed today for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Ritz has about 800 photo stores scattered over 40 different states, including Ritz Camera, Kits Cameras, Wolf Camera, The Camera Shops and Inkley’s. It also operates 130 Boater’s World stores (good luck figuring out the connection between Boating and Camera equipment).

I used to go to Inkley’s when I was growing up and window shop at the latest camera gear. That was back in the day of the Canon A1, and AE1. I wanted the auto-drive for my Canon A1 so bad it hurt, but I was just a kid and never could afford it.

I have bought a lot of equipment at Inkley’s over the years, so I am not to blame in this latest victim of the economic downturn.

Ritz Camera has about 6,400 employees nationwide and recorded sales of just under $1 billion last year.

As part of the Bankruptcy filing, Ritz Camera listed Nikon and Canon as two of their top 30 creditors with outstanding balances of ~$40 million, with an additional $8 million owed to Fuji Photo Film USA.

The company experienced a significant decline in it’s profitable photofinishing business due to the shift from film to digital cameras, lower than expected holiday sales in 2008, and a sharp decline in boating sales due to increased gas prices and other economic factors.

Read the complete article at Business Week

I wonder if they will seek bailout money from the government like the other failed/failing businesses these days (don’t get me started about this mess – It makes me grumpy).