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City's coolest new coffee shop: Old cameras, fresh Old Rock coffee at Café Obscura

David Wiewel, a former Northern Life staff photographer, got back into film photography three years ago, and 'fell in love with it'

A new downtown cafe with a unique concept opened its doors July 29.

Café Obscura, owned by David Wiewel, staff photographer at Northern Life from 1989 to 1999, not only sells the typical café fare of caffeinated beverages and baked goodies, but also film and film cameras.

Wiewel, who, after his time at Northern Life, ran his own photography business and later a renovation business, said he got back into film photography about three years ago, and now shoots exclusively on film.

He also produces tintypes and wet plate photography, types of early photography done in the 1800s.

“Because I was pursuing wetplates, I figured I'd shoot a few more rolls of film, and then I fell in love with it,” Wiewel said. “Now I don't shoot any digital except the odd phone photo.”

Wiewel said there are a few advantages to taking photos the old-fashioned way.

In using digital, he used to take more than 1,000 photos in a weekend to get about 40 he liked. But when he's using film, he's much more careful about the photos he takes, and that ratio is much lower.

“I'm basically curating my work before I actually take the picture,” Wiewel said.

He said professional-quality film cameras are now affordable, costing a couple hundred dollars, as opposed to the $3,000 they would have cost when they were made — or what a comparable digital camera costs now.

Wiewel's renewed interest in film photography coincided with an opportunity to purchase the former Old Rock café business on Durham Street.

Instead of reopening at the old location, which was co-located with the Peppi Panini restaurant, he's instead moved it to 130 Elm St.

That's in the same building as Bay Used Books, in the space which historically was the Gardner Motors car dealership.

He said the historic building fits well with the old cameras he sells. Wiewel has also outfitted the space with vintage furniture.

“I have the original sales offices and the original terrazzo floor, and those bulkheads are original from them '30s when they built the building,” he said. “So the furniture made sense with that, but it also made sense with the analog cameras.”

So if you have an old film camera that you'd like to try out again, Wiewel can make sure it's in working order and sell you some film. He also has a variety of vintage cameras for sale.

He also has a darkroom on site, and can develop your film and even scan it so it's digital once again — a rare service in this day and age. Other businesses send film outside of the city to be developed, Wiewel said.

On the café side of things, Wiewel sells Old Rock products, baked goodies from Beards Coffee Bar and Bakery and La Baguette Magique, and lunch items and more baked goodies from Pinchman's Cafe and Artisan Bakery.

So far, traffic has been steady. Although there's already several cafes in downtown Sudbury, Wiewel said his location is an advantage, because he's further up Elm Street.

And he's even had interest in his film cameras from the younger generation who have never done film photography.

“I had a girl yesterday who's never shot film,” Wiewel said. “She's a young lady, early 20s I suspect.

“She liked it, and she liked the vibe, and talked about some cameras. She read one of my books that I have. She ended up buying (a camera) because she wanted to try it, and that's just amazing.”

If you'd like to visit Café Obscura, it's located at 130 Elm St., Unit 102, and is open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Phone 705-222-7489 or visit its Facebook page.