The last northern Minnesota camera shop to process film is closing Friday.

Duluth's First Photo, opened in 1992, had been struggling for years because of online competition, owner Mike Mennes said this week. Then the pandemic hit.

"When we went from film to digital, that basically was the beginning of the end," Mennes said, because while people were shooting more pictures, they weren't making prints. Instead, photos are posted to social media or languish on cellphones.

That, along with the availability of high-end cameras from online outlets further reduced store business, he said.

Shutting down for weeks at the start of the pandemic was not something he could absorb, and loans available to small businesses didn't help enough for longtime viability, he said.

"The margins are way too thin, and we were showroomed to death this past year," Mennes said. "People would come in and ask questions and then buy online."

First Photo has maintained a loyal customer base for professional prints and gallery wraps throughout its years, including moms documenting family life, nature photographers and camera buffs.

"I have a fiercely loyal clientele, but not enough to keep my doors open," Mennes said. "I don't take the closing lightly, but unfortunately it had to happen."

Jana Hollingsworth • 218-508-2450