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[caption id="attachment_12997" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Rudi Calkovsky"][/caption]

SONOMA -- It may not be surprising that Calkovsky Cameras and Lenses is selling $20,000 a month worth of vintage movie cameras and lenses. Owner Rudi Calkovsky is, after all, a new expert in the field and a leading supplier of Bolex cameras and Kern Paillard and Cooke lenses on the Internet.Calkovsky expands

June 22, 2012

Now, three years later, Calkovsky has its own website (www.calkovsky.com) and has nearly tripled in size, serving the mainstream movie and film industry.

The company has emerged as a worldwide leader with a strong, consistent reputation of quality products and excellent service, as is demonstrated in nearly perfect feedback from thousands of sales.

Mr. Calkovsky has met professionals who knew Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin and the men whose names are stamped on iconic film industry equipment like Mitchell and Bach Auricon.

But that generation is disappearing, taking with them their first-hand experiences of the "golden age" of Hollywood. Their baton -- and much of their equipment -- have been passed to Calkovsky Cameras, which now maintains continuity within the exclusive niche. Vintage movie and film equipment will be used and preserved for generations to come.

Demand remains strong. Calkovsky now serves customers in more than 90 countries, including award-winning industry professionals, studios and film schools.

What is surprising is that seven months ago he'd never heard of them.

His business, growing by the month as vintage movie camera buffs around the world discover his store on eBay (stores.ebay.com/

calkovskycamerasandlensesco), is testament to the spirit of entrepreneurship, a will to succeed and the enormous opportunity offered by the  Web.

A master auto mechanic who was sidelined by an injury and then laid off his shop foreman's job by the economic downturn, Mr. Calkovsky resorted to selling personal items on Craigslist to supplement his wife's marketing job at the accounting firm Moss Adams in Santa Rosa.

An effort to start a business consulting auto shops on how to reduce debt and increase profits failed, although he had written a manual on the topic and his methods had proven themselves in his former shop and others.

"When small auto shop owners are struggling to survive, it's hard to sell them a new service. So it didn't fly," said Mr. Calkovsky.

Then, his wife suggested her old Polaroid folding camera and Brownie movie camera and a couple of others that the couple had on display might bring $20 apiece on Craigslist.

He sold two on that site and tried out eBay for the other two. To his surprise, a Yoshika camera brought $60. On a hunch, he used the money to buy more old cameras.

During the next several months, for seven days a week, Mr. Calkovsky bid on, bought and sold thousands of cameras, discovering in the process which ones had more value and why.

"When I was pretty sure selling antique cameras was a legitimate business I set up a store on eBay and sold my Range Rover to buy better quality items," he said.

He gradually refined his inventory to the most expensive cameras and lenses, such as Bolex, Kern Paillard and Cooke, some of which sell for upwards of $3,000.

After four months he earned a Gold Power Seller rating from eBay, where he holds a near-perfect customer satisfaction record.

About 75 percent of his sales are international, with Hong Kong and Japan the largest by far.

"I love doing business with Asians. They have a great appreciation for quality, and their courtesy is outstanding," said Mr. Calkovsky.

The cameras and lenses are prized by collectors and film makers. Although he does some cosmetic work and minor repairs, the most value he offers to customers is his eye for quality and the fact that he saves them laborious searches for the items they want.

"I do quite a few purchases and sales off eBay now, and eventually I'll have my own site, but I like eBay for the wide exposure and good customer feedback," he said.

 Meanwhile, Mr. Calkovsky's sales continue to grow, hitting $10,000 in eBay and other sales during a recent week.

Asked about his business plan, he said it was very simple.

"I want to pay off our mortgage in 10 years. My wife and I don't use credit cards, and once the mortgage is paid down we'll be completely debt-free. That's my business plan," he said.

Calkovsky Cameras and Lenses site can be found by searching for Calkovsky Cameras on eBay.