Louisville Magazine

MAY 2019

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

Issue link: https://loumag.epubxp.com/i/1108942

Contents of this Issue


Page 49 of 112

LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 5.19 47 Rubin, far left. and Rubin was "tall." After that, Rubin says, almost all of his Shakespearean roles began with "P": "Paris, the Prince, Peter, the 'pothecary," he says with a grin. It was during a search for play props at the DAV thrift store in Shively that Rubin found his second love: his first camera. Well, not his first camera — that was a Ko- dak Instamatic 100 he kept during a nine- month stint in the Coast Guard — but the first camera that meant something to him. Vintage cameras often come in hard plastic shells that resemble suitcases, and at first, this particular dusty black suitcase seemed impenetrable. It took Rubin what felt like minutes to find the button to open it. When he finally did, the lid sprung open to reveal a Seneca 4x5 folding camera made of cherry-colored mahogany, brass and red leather. More beautiful than Janet Lombard. He bought it for $16. at Seneca 4x5 sparked an obsession in Rubin. He knew he wanted more cameras, so when he started going to regional cam- era shows and saw dealers buying gorgeous cameras for cheap, he thought, "I wanna be that guy." For the next decade, his collection grew, though cameras took a backseat to other things in his life: the end of his Shake- spearean acting career, a starring role in a '70s sci-fi spoof movie called Invasion of the Girl Snatchers, employment as a substitute teacher, a stint as a bailiff, 10 tortuous years as a suit-and-tie-wearing square adjusting insurance claims at State Farm. Another marriage, another divorce. e end of that decade left him with no job and no spouse, and Rubin found himself in a familiar situation: unsure what to do next. His camera collection was the biggest thing he had going for him — lit- erally, as it had begun to crowd his home. He needed a place to store them, and a way to get new ones. Most importantly, he needed a job. And, after the corporate grind of State Farm, preferably one where he could be his own boss. ough Rubin liked the size and feel of Louisville, he was ready to go somewhere that made more sense for him — California, perhaps, or on a road trip to antique and thrift stores throughout the country. But it turns out he didn't need to — and couldn't — go that far. Leaving Louisville didn't work out, he says, for a couple of reasons. ree beeps and the front door opens, and one of those reasons walks into the store. Rubin's daughter Jess has long dark hair, thick and long eyelashes, and a bronze glow to her skin, even in the middle of winter. She's quiet, quickly waving hello to her dad as she stops to light a cinna- mon spiced vanilla candle sitting atop a retro coin-operated arcade game called Drinker-Tinker, as she does every Saturday morning. You wouldn't recognize Jess, or Rubin's other daughter, Meredith, from the photo- graph on the back wall, of the store's open- ing day: August 2, 1988. at day marked a turning point in Rubin's life. His mind made up to stay in Louisville with his two young daughters, the solution to Rubin's problems became obvious and only a few miles away: opening an antique camera store. Long before $4 popsicles and gas- tropubs in old churches, Bardstown Road was still funky, but perhaps in a less trendy way. e 1980s saw an influx of antique and oddity shops in the area, and Chuck Rubin Photographics made an apt addition to the neighborhood. Rubin bought the building at 1031 Bardstown Road for $68,000 with money from his parents' estate, moved his personal belongings into the apartment upstairs, relocated his cam- era collection to the first floor, and gave himself one month to be successful as an antique camera dealer. If he wasn't, he says, he had "the biggest playroom in town" and would turn it into something else — a place to set up his toy trains, show movies or house a theater group, perhaps. A place where people could gather. But no one was gathering in those early days. e morning of August 2, 1988, Rubin opened the store alone, his full inventory on display: eight cameras for sale on a single set of shelves. Anticipating a line, he opened up the front door for busi- ness to find only his friend John Longino, who had already contacted him ahead of time to make sure Rubin had what he was looking for. Longino was the only one who came that day. irty days later, the month-long promise Rubin made himself was realized: He had sold things, but more importantly, he bought more things to resell — one

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