Kodak to file for bankruptcy

Word on the street is that Eastman Kodak is preparing to file for bankruptcy. The company is massively in debt and has run out of ways to generate income. They are trying to establish themselves into the home printer business, but other companies have a much stronger foothold in that particular market.

Kodak spends hundreds of millions a year on healthcare and pension benefits for retirees. If they go through bankruptcy, they may be able to lessen that cost. The pensions would be secured by the U.S. government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. The retiree healthcare would not be protected and the bankruptcy court could allow Kodak to get out of its obligation to provide health care to retired workers.

I used to work in the photofinishing industry. First in a large central processing lab as a repair tech and then as a field engineer for Gretag, a Swiss company that made photofinishing equipment. I traveled around the eastern United States installing and repairing photofinishing equipment, mainly photo printers.

Gretag went out of business years ago, and rightfully so. To say Gretag wasted money is an understatement. They once sent me to Hannibal, Missouri to watch a guy replace a mini-lab wash tank at a Walgreen drugstore. I didn’t work on mini-labs. My boss had me go there simply because he didn’t have anything else for me to do that week.

It’s impossible to work in the photofinishing industry and not have any interactions with Kodak. They, under the name Qualex, owned most of the large central photofinishing labs in the country.

I was with Gretag when they purchased Kodak’s CLAS wholesale photographic printer business. Gretag sent me and five other lucky people to Rochester for a month of training on the CLAS printer. The former Kodak engineers training us weren’t very excited to all of a sudden to be working for Gretag, not that I could blame them.

The CLAS printer was an awful machine to work on. They were constantly breaking down. The only reason Kodak was able to sell them was that they owned most of the photo labs in North America. They also practically gave them away to other labs so that these labs would be forced to purchase Kodak paper. Every sale of a CLAS printer came with a contract for photo paper.

Gretag didn’t sell photo paper, so perhaps owning a line of printers designed to help sell paper wasn’t the wisest business decision.

I left Gretag in 1999. I wish I could say I left because I could foresee that film-based photography was on the way out. That wasn’t the reason. I just got sick of the needless, stupid travel. The night I woke up in my hotel room and couldn’t remember what city I was in, I knew then it was time to start looking for a new job.

3 thoughts on “Kodak to file for bankruptcy”

  1. I’m surprised I didn’t recognize your photo. I spent 35 years in the photofinishing industry, both pro and amateur, working at various times for National Color Labs, Meisel, Phototron, Fotomat, Konica, and Fujicolor. Gretag equipment was the best, although I thought the Sentra was a step back from the 3141 as far as ability to control the quality.

    It was sad to see Gretag finally fold up. I knew most of the TSRs.

    1. I was the supervisor for machine printing at National Color labs from 1962 for 13 years. We bought the first Gretag 3115’s in the country and I was the first salesperson hired by Gretag and paid by Ilford. Sold Gretags all over the country including the Secret Service and the Pentagon. When Armstrong returned from the moon we printed close to 30,000 8×10 and 5×7 of the moon shots on Gretags. Six of us at NCL had top secret clearance and we did some very interesting pictures. The Rothbards did not have the clearance and could not view them.

  2. I worked for Kodak for 24 years, in Photofinishing ,using Kodak equipment and later Gretag (3141 plus other bits and pieces). Sad this whole industry and just gone so suddenly. Can anyone supply images of Gretag 3141s or Kodak printers? Needed for a talk I will give to a local Photographic club. thanks.

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