It's in the Star
:Miles City Star: "Riggs: End of an era; Main Street store closing doors after 42 years"Riggs: End of an era; Main Street store closing doors after 42 years
By Elaine Forman
After 42 years as a Main Street fixture, John and Pam Riggs have decided to close Riggs Camera and Gifts.
"Our business model is gone," John said, referring to the store's original focus of collectibles, photography and a wedding registry with their china and crystal lines.
Riggs carried many lines of collectibles like Hummels, Precious Moments and Fenton Art Glass, but the collectible market died, he said.
People aren't buying or using formal dinnerware anymore, and digital photography wiped out the photography business.
"At our high point, we developed 16,000 rolls of film a year. Last year we did 800," John said.
He guesses it took 30 years or so for cars to replace horses, but it only took four years for digital photography to wipe out the film industry.
He said they started a website so people could order their prints online, but many people are no longer printing their digital images, he said.
Also, what John called "the Wal-Mart Syndrome," happened.
"It's happened to every small town in America," he said.
They tried making changes to the business.
"We tried to address everyone's needs. ... We made all the necessary adjustments to keep the business going," Pam said.
Still, they could not generate the business traffic.
Of the development, John said society changes in time. "It's progress."
"In all roads there is a turn," Pam said.
The tuxedo rentals are no longer done except for two weddings that are already booked.
There will be no more passport pictures taken and no more camera lessons given.
But the Riggs family has enjoyed the privilege of serving Miles City and the surrounding area.
"We are so thankful for our loyal customers," Pam said. "We helped celebrate all the milestones in people's lives. Every time you had a birthday, we were there. Every time you had a marriage, we were there with either a card or by developing the film. Every time there was a new baby or a death in the family, we were there," Pam said.
"It's been a hard business, but it's a good business," John said. We've hired lots of people over the years," John said. At their peak, they employed 11 people.
Bob and Margaret Riggs started the camera, Hallmark and gift store in May 1969 with their sons, John and Larry.
For a time, they also operated a store in Glendive.
In about 1982 they expanded west into the former Sweetbriar's building, doubling the size of their store.
The Riggs own both buildings.
The western half is possibly the oldest wooden building left on Main Street. John believes the building was made from the keel of a wrecked paddleboat.
It was Epsteins clothing store, then Sweetbriar's, then Riggs.
It has the first fur vault in the state of Montana. People from Billings used to bring their fur coats to store in the vault. It is made of concrete and remains in the basement.
Upstairs there are 32 small rooms with buzzers inside each one. It is believed to have been a brothel at one time. John thinks it may have been a boarding house and maybe a theater, too.
When combining the two buildings, they found a key ring between the walls that read "Johnson's Boarding House."
Margaret Riggs took some of the wood from the wall, where they cut through, to build the counters that they still use today.
The eastern half of the building is a four-course brick building. At one time it was the Friend's Shoe Shop.
Bob died in 1995. John and Pam bought the business in 1997. Margaret died this year.
Riggs will have a progressive liquidation sale, starting with 20 percent off during the month of September.
"Everything's for sale, except for my wife .... and my daughter," John laughed.
They are guessing they will be closing around Christmas, but they aren't sure.
"This is the first time we've done this," he said.
John, Pam and their daughter, Angela, are focusing on the sale, then they will consider the next step. They don't have any future plans yet.
The Riggs family is grateful for the support they've received over the years.
"We are very appreciative. We have such wonderful, loyal customers," Pam said.