I would not have been able to afford my first Leica camera if it weren’t for Ken Hansen.
A few months before, I had sold a Nikon rangefinder and finally had enough cash to put a Leica M and 50mm lens somewhat within reach. I knew of the legendary Ken Hansen through the various Leica forums and emailed to ask if he had a nice M3 around and he sent me photos of this camera and a rigid 50mm Summicron lens. Like all of Ken’s used Leicas, it was perfect and the lens was flawless.
Trouble was, I didn’t have enough cash and I asked Ken if he would take a deposit and hold the camera for me until I had the rest of the money. Ken emailed me back and asked for my address. “I’ll send the camera to you today. Pay me whenever you can, no hurry.”
That’s the way Ken did business. Old fashioned trust. Excellent service. Fair prices. Trade ins accepted.
Ken Hansen came to the US from Germany in the early 1960s. He got a job at a camera store in Manhattan right away and learned the business of the retail camera shop. In 1973, he decided to start his own place, borrowing some money from family to rent space and buy some inventory. He knew what people wanted to buy so he’d go looking for used cameras from other camera stores and private sellers, buy them and put them in his shop. Every Sunday, he’d put a small ad in the paper advertising some of his items and by Monday afternoon, they were sold. Ken told me once that his business was successful right from the start and he always felt very blessed.
Ken’s business grew and he moved into larger and larger spaces. He became a Leica Authorized dealer in 1976 and was also one of the largest Rollei dealers in the US. His shop and staff grew in size.
Ken told me once that when he started his business, there were a lot of dishonest people in the retail photo business. He wanted to build his business on trust, honesty and good customer service.
Eventually, rents in New York City got out of control and he made the difficult decision to close the retail store and move his nearly one million dollars in inventory into his home, focusing exclusively on Leica. With no storefront and no website, Ken continued to sell new and used Leicas worldwide, operating out of his Manhattan apartment in the spring and summer months and wintering in Florida.
I’ve bought almost all of my Leicas from Ken, trading in one for another. I even picked up a used Nikon or two from him, cameras he took in as trades. Each time it was the same, Ken would next day air the camera to me before I sent him any money. One time, I had a sensor issue on a Leica digital M. No worries. Ken said send it back and I will send you another, no questions asked. No one does business like that anymore.
Ken had a store on eBay too, but he told me he mostly listed cameras there for something to do when he was bored. His descriptions were always well written and full of his dry sense of humor.
Last fall, I emailed Ken looking for a Leica R6 or R6.2. Of course, he had a mint R6 on the shelf and sent it out next day air for a price that was far less than what comparable ones were selling for on eBay. This camera works like a charm, but I’ve just sent it in to DAG for new seals and a CLA.
While he had me on the line, he also tempted me with a minty 35-70mm Vario-Elmar lens. Of course, I had to have it. I need to make time to shoot this lens soon. The R6 and this Vario-Elmar were my last purchases from Ken.
I first got word something was wrong when I emailed Ken late last year asking him to keep his eyes out for a nice Leicaflex SL2. I’ve always wanted to try one of these early Leica SLRs. Ken responded that he would, but it might be a while since he had been quite sick. A month or so later, I checked in on my friend and he responded that he was still not doing well.
Then a few weeks ago, the family sent this message…
This is Ken’s granddaughter, Summer. Unfortunately, my grandfather is too ill to continue working. We’ve received some unfortunate news from doctors that all which could be done has been. He won’t be available for business any longer as he is quickly deteriorating and struggling. Thank you for being a customer of my grandfather and supportive friend.
All the best,
Ken told me once that he would occasionally read my blog and that it “wasn’t half bad.” So if by chance you read this my friend, please know how much I appreciate the honorable way you’ve conducted business with me, for all your Leica advice, for giving store credit to someone you didn’t even know, for all your funny emails and your friendship.
Thoughts and prayers.