At 20, Fletcher Chicago has grown from a camera accessories shop to national camera rental giant

Like many a man with a vision of how a company should be grown, Archie Fletcher disagreed with the Texas-based owners of the company he was running in Skokie.

When it became obvious he and his bosses were of two different and resolute minds, Fletcher quit and on July 1, 1987 started Fletcher Chicago with his son, Tom.

With the $80,000 net settlement from litigation over commissions owed, Archie Fletcher outfitted the snug 800-sq. ft. River North office with a small array of lighting and camera accessories for sale and rental. Their initial inventory investment was $7,500.

“The older I get,” said Tom Fletcher, speaking on behalf of the organization, “the more credit I give my dad for taking the risk of going into his own business at age 55.”

Archie Fletcher, however, knew what it took to lead a company of his own. He’d been president of Media Specialties?the company he left?where Tom, then 24, had worked as a fledgling salesman for two years.

Earlier, he had spent many years working in sales and management for large corporations and lighting companies?Westinghouse, Hub Electric, and Strand Century.

Flash forward. Last week the Fletchers?founder/president Archie, Tom, VP/marketing and Sally, VP/business affairs?hosted a lavish luncheon for their 25 employees on their patio by the Chicago River to celebrate the firm’s 20th anniversary.

Archie thanked the staff for helping to grow the company to the Midwest’s biggest high-end camera sales and rental outlet: $20 million worth of inventory housed in a sprawling 24,000 sq. ft. building on Goose Island.

As a privately held-company (the Fletchers are sole owners with Dan Grainge, the non-family member of the senior management team), specific sales figures are not divulged.

General manager Zoe Borys, who spent 10 years with Panavision, rental manager Stan Glapa, who joined from Schumacher Camera, and sales manager Kari Hess are the other executives.

An HD proponent and pioneer in 1998

When high definition first began pushing itself into the filmmakers’ consciousness in 1998, Fletcher Chicago became an HD pioneer. It became one of the first companies in the U.S.?along with Panavision and Plus8 Digital?to embrace the new technology.