Bel-Air Camera has been in Westwood Village for 58 years, and just five months ago was sold to New York's Willoughby's Camera Store. But business was worse than the new owners knew and Bel-Air is closing for good after Wednesday.
"We are sad to see any long-standing family-owned business in Westwood close, and Bel-Air Camera has been a part of our Village legacy for more than 50 years," said Steven Sann, chairman of the Westwood Community Council. "But we all know the traditional camera business has changed radically over the last 30 years and has been severely disrupted."
The Herskovic family, which opened Bel-Air Camera in 1957 in Westwood's landmark Holmby Clocktower building, were Holocaust survivors and later helped a relative to open LA's Samy's Camera chain. The original Bel-Air Camera moved to another location on Westwood Boulevard before settling in 1998 in the current location, a former bank building at Gayley and Kinross avenues with its own surface parking lot, a rarity in Westwood. Westwood Village architect Stephen Kanner designed the store, which features a giant camera and a roll of film on the exterior.
The closure of Bel-Air Camera is more change for Westwood Village, but at least it's not all exits. A new mixed-use development on the site of the former National theatre has opened at Gayley and Lindbrook avenues in recent weeks, with a Pain Quotidien on the corner. Sur La Table is supposed to begin construction this week on a new store in the former Gap at Westwood and Weyburn. Paper Source recently opened a store on Westwood Boulevard and Musashiya Udon Noodle opened last month on Gayley Avenue. Tender Greens is coming to a former Acapulco restaurant on Glendon Avenue in February, Panera Bread is coming to Westwood Boulevard and KazuNori has begun construction on Gayley. Also going on is a $1.75 million restoration of the landmark 1930 Shepherd Mitchell building, designed by architect Stiles O. Clemens, across from Bel-Air Camera at the southeast corner of Gayley and Kinross.
Sann says the closure of Bel-Air Camera could open the way to more lucrative development in advance of the Purple Line subway coming to Westwood Village. "With the subway coming two blocks away, this is a prime opportunity to redevelop that prominent corner site and surface parking lot into a great mixed-use project with ground floor retail and housing above," he said today.
Westwood's older businesses include Oakley's Barbershop, which opened in 1929; Campus Shoe Repair, 1930/31; Westwood Sporting Goods, 1934; the Village (1931) and Bruin (1937) movie theaters; Stan's Corner Donut Shoppe, 1964; and several jewelers. The corner building where 800 Degrees Pizza and Peet's Coffee are located at Westwood and Lindbrook is a former Ralphs Market that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.