Photo by Joe McNally, used with permission.

Mendel Mendlowits, the charismatic founder of camera retail giant Adorama, passed away on the morning of April 8, 2020 at the age of 76. The company he founded in the 1970s announced the news yesterday on its blog.

'If you ever had the honor of speaking with Mendel Mendlowits for any more than five minutes, you weren’t likely to forget him. His piercing, curious eyes stayed riveted on you throughout the conversation. His insatiable curiosity could turn a quick “hello” into an hour-long discussion. It was this curiosity, and his unstoppable drive to do what others thought could not be done, that made Mendel Mendlowits such an influential figure in the photography industry for more than 40 years,' reads the tribute.

Mendlowits was born in 1943 and is a Holocaust survivor, along with his sister, who hid him away in a bunker at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Once the Allied forces liberated them in 1945, he and his sister, along with their father, moved to the United States and settled in Williamsburg, New York.

At 17, he started working for his family's business. His experience at Brooklyn-based Mazel, a wholesaler of film, batteries, and photo-finishing equipment would inspire him to open his very first Adorama storefront on 34th Street in Manhattan. Adorama is derived from the Hebrew word 'ador,' a tree used to fortify the borders of ancient Israel. He also created a word starting with 'A' so it would be listed towards the top of aggregated business indexes.

Mendlowits immersed himself in the photography community starting in the 70s. He sought to understand every aspect of the craft. Through his connections, he became adept at finding the best products and deals – often advertising them in the top publications of the day such as Shutterbug and Modern Photography. His ability to diversify aspects of his business, combined with his acumen, helped Adorama become a household name that competes directly with other major retailers including Amazon and B&H Photo to this day.

'If you ever had the honor of speaking with Mendel Mendlowits for any more than five minutes, you weren’t likely to forget him. His piercing, curious eyes stayed riveted on you throughout the conversation.'

In 2014, Mendlowits handed the business over to his son Eugene who will continue its legacy alongside CEO Michael Amkreutz. 'The entire Mendlowits family, as well as the Adorama family, will continue to honor him and his memory. As we mourn this great loss, our gratitude for Mr. Mendlowits grows. We recognize, during this especially uncertain time, how a strong foundation can uphold an organization.

We thank the entire community for the outpouring of love and condolences, and we will honor Mendel and his legacy by continuing to dedicate ourselves to Adorama and its very bright future,' concludes the announcement.