You may never have heard of the Camera Repair Instrument Service, but the Chandler-based business has a worldwide reputation among those who make and sell the priciest and most prestigious cameras.
This little local company, tucked into an unassuming 10,000-square-foot building in an industrial area of the city, has been growing and hiring throughout the recession. Now it's about to have another growth spurt.
Expert technicians at CRIS, the conveniently shortened nickname the company uses for marketing, fix the broken products that camera dealers can't handle.
It is the exclusive North American camera service center for Ricoh Corp., a Japanese maker of precision instruments. It provides authorized repair service for such prestigious manufacturers as Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, Kodak, Fuji, Panasonic, Casio and Sigma, among others.
And in a deal announced this week, CRIS will serve as the "factory service facility" for industry giant Pentax, which said it will outsource its own repair operation to the Chandler company.
"We anticipate that this alliance will allow us to deliver the highest level of customer service," said John Carlson, Pentax's manager of product marketing and support.
Typically 250 to 300 cameras a day arrive for CRIS to repair, said Mark Treadwell, founder and president. He expects that number to jump 20 percent with the new Pentax deal.
The company has 50 employees now, up from two when he moved his operation to Chandler from southern California in 1990, Treadwell said.
To handle the new Pentax business, he needs four to six more technicians immediately, he said. He's got several ready to start as soon as he makes room for them in the crowded repair center.
Treadwell moved some old file cabinets and shelves and marked with masking tape tentative outlines on the floor to fit four more high-tech work spaces, but clearly the camera shop is outgrowing its building.
Treadwell moved his then-6-year-old camera repair business to Chandler because he didn't want to raise his children in Southern California. He intends to keep his current digs, but he expects to overflow into space in a nearby building.
Having Pentax hand over all its factory repair business gives CRIS operations a big boost, said BJ Adams, sales and marketing manager, and there are other similar deals in the works.
And while most people have never heard of CRIS since they bring their busted cameras to retail stores and don't realize the stores forward the items to the Chandler shop, that could change soon.
The company is planning to provide direct customer repair service via the Internet, Adams said.
The Web site is ready to launch the service, but CRIS won't market it until the procedures and staff are in place to handle the additional business, he said.
"But we'll start soon. We're days away from flipping the switch," Adams said.
While other companies have watched business slow down as the economy did, CRIS experienced the opposite, Treadwell said.
"We were worried about what would happen," he said. "But what we found is people were getting cameras fixed instead of buying new ones."