Retrospekt, a Milwaukee-based business that restores and sells Polaroid instant cameras and other vintage electronics, has relocated its operations to a new, larger workshop in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood.Earlier this month, the business moved to its new space in 811 E. Vienna Ave., where it shares a building with Gathering Place Brewing Co. and Red Schafer Mixed Martial Arts. Retrospekt was previously based out of a redeveloped warehouse at 2612 S. Greeley St. in the Bay View neighborhood. The new location offers the business 5,000 additional square feet, for a total of 15,000 square feet, and allows it to consolidate operations onto one floor.
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Retrospekt, which refurbishes Polaroid and 35 mm cameras, portable cassette players and classic gaming consoles, grew out of what was once a side hobby for co-owners Kori and Adam Fuerst. The couple first started purchasing used Polaroid film cameras at thrift stores around the time when the manufacturer decided to cease instant film production in 2008. They gradually transitioned into the business of repairing and restoring the vintage technology for resale. Today, Retrospekt includes a team of about 22 employees who do detailed cleaning and repairs – some of which require fabrication of replacement parts – of the electronics, which are then repackaged and shipped to customers internationally. The business is also licensed by Polaroid to create new custom cameras featuring a mix of vintage internal parts and newly designed exteriors. Last year, for example, Retrospekt developed a special limited edition Polaroid 600 instant film camera featuring artwork inspired by the People’s Flag of Milwaukee, which sold for $119. In addition to its online store, Retrospekt’s products are sold in brick-and-mortar retailers, such as Urban Outfitters. Retrospekt built up its ecommerce site last year, which has helped the company weather the COVID-19 health crisis, Kori Fuerst said. “That legwork has really made all the difference this year as we’ve now been able to transition to selling more online,” she said. “So, we’ve been able to keep that part of the business up and running, where we can do order fulfillment, we still do repairs of people’s products. So in that sense, it’s been OK. I think we are fortunate that we’re not dependent on a public-facing retail store. We’re able to do what we do largely online and from our warehouse.” Still, the business is moving forward with plans to open an onsite retail space within the next year. Kori said it could look like a soft opening during the holiday season with limited hours. Other future plans for the new space include building out a dark room that could be used by the community as a “learning and studio space.”“Adam and I have always wanted to have a dark room that universities or professors could utilize as a lot of colleges are eliminating dark rooms from their space,” Kori said. “We have it drawn out on the blueprints, it’s just a matter of building it out.”