OAKLAND -- After a half-century in business, Sarber's Cameras closed its doors for the last time Feb. 1.

A reception by the Sarber family was held to say goodbye and to thank their family, friends, customers and the community for their support and patronage over the years.

"This shop is not just ours, it's everybody's," said Jessica Sarber, the company's chief financial officer.

"A camera store is a special place. They are the keepers of our memories," said Charles Carrigan, a longtime patron and Sarber family relative.

Nearly 100 people filtered into the sparse shop to reminisce, wish the Sarber family well and honor this iconic business. Debbie Stiles, a longtime customer and friend, came from Davis to wish the Sarbers well.

"It's the end of an era," she said, remembering the founder, the late Peter Sarber's dedication to the business. "It was a labor of love. He worked so hard for his customers. He would do anything to make them happy."

The store is one of the oldest in Oakland, dating back to the 1920s. Peter and Nancy Sarber bought the store in 1961 and moved it to Montclair in 1964. The couple's son, David, came to the business in 1983 and gradually took the helm. Peter Sarber died in 1998.

"In the last few weeks, people have shared how much we meant to them. My motivation to keep the store running these last few years was grounded in the knowledge of what we meant to people. It was extremely gratifying to actually hear it," said David Sarber, the chief operating officer.

"I'm going to miss this store," said Anthony Mar, of the Trestle Glen district. "This store is a place I come to get knowledge as well as my photography supplies. It's a shame to lose another small business. It changes the makeup of the Village."

Laura Sarber, the youngest of the three children of Peter and Nancy Sarber, "thanked her parents for creating this legacy." She remembered eating dinner at a makeshift table with her siblings in the store, followed by helping out by testing batteries, dusting and filing photo envelopes.

"We could play and sweep and sometimes I would wish it was a magic broom that would take us all away," she fondly recalled.

"It's bittersweet," said Andrea Sarber, 16, daughter of David and Jessica Sarber. "I've grown up here, just like my dad. But when it's time for something to end, you have to accept it. It's hard to think of this space being occupied by someone else and realize that it's not our store anymore."

"They saw my son grow up in pictures," said Susan Kahn, a Montclair resident, artist and photographer. "They knew everywhere we had been. They always had the best prices in town. It was completely amazing what they were able to do and that they always picked the best of everything."

"It's a big ending," said Janet Sarber, the oldest daughter of Peter and Nancy Sarber. "The store had a great life. It's done a great service to the community. We have shared in many peoples lives through photos. It will always be a part of our lives."

---