Start Small… Think Big!


The Story of Precision Camera & Video
by Bill Hedrick

Some of the most successful businesses had humble beginnings where hard working individuals set out to make a living at what they love. After all, it is one of those things that makes America such a unique nation and attracts people from every corner of the world. The key to making it work is dedication and a drive to make it happen. Such was the case in 1976 when Jerry and Rosemary Sullivan decided to start doing camera repair work and sell some film.

That work paid off and, after a few years, they opened a small store and began selling cameras and accessories. They called it Precision Camera and Video. Business was good and the Sullivans soon outgrew that spot and moved to North Lamar in Austin, Texas. The new location provided room for future expansion. Things were going well but the Sullivans realized they needed a couple of more things to make Precision Camera the top camera store in Central Texas and, in 2004, hired Gregg Burger from Bel Air Camera in Westwood, California, as the new store manager. Gregg brought with him his top sales person, Robert Backman.

What these two individuals brought with them was a new attitude for running a top-notched camera store. They hired people who were photographers who could help customers with technical questions about their cameras and gear. In addition, Burger began reaching out to the local community with charity drives and trade shows. It was a huge success. Over the next 10 years, sales doubled and Precision Camera and Video continued to grow.

Gregg Burger, General Manager Precision Camera & Video.

The landscape of Austin was continually changing and the developers who owned the shopping center where Precision Camera was located decided to demolish the existing structure and rebuild as office space. Once again, the Sullivans were faced with moving to another location. A primary consideration was that the new location would provide even more room for expansion. That opportunity came and Precision Camera relocated to a new 20,000 square foot space on the corner of Anderson Lane and Burnet Road in Austin, making it the largest camera store in Texas.

After seven years at the new location, the Sullivans were ready to retire. Photography had been good to them and it was time to finally relax and have time to themselves. It didn’t take long to find a new buyer, Phil Livingston, from Colorado, who loved photography and was anxious for some adventure. He got to work fast and began hiring even more people who could help him grow the store even more. Livingston moved advertising money around and began investing into digital media for expanding web sales. He also increased the number of events in the store to draw in new customers. One of his major attractions was to showcase local photographers by printing 20×30 images of their work and having a gallery opening for them.

Precision Camera & Video’s huge showroom.

The formula has worked well on all fronts and, a year ago, Precision Camera and Video opened a second location in South Austin at Southpark Meadows Shopping Center. Although it is smaller than the main store, this new location serves customers as far as San Antonio, being just off Interstate 35. But that wasn’t enough for Livingston. The store is slated to open yet another location the end of April in the Woodlands area, just 30 miles north of Houston. Even before its official opening, this third store has gotten a lot of excitement from people in that area. Classes have already been held here and they even began renting cameras from the temporary office.

Precision Camera and Video, like other great stores in Texas, carries just about every brand of cameras and accessories, with a tremendous showroom were customers can try out items before they purchase them. What does the future hold for them? If past growth is any indication, a fourth store could be a real possibility at some point. Only time will tell.