It’s strange to have rows of sleek DVD cases be an object of nostalgia, but for those who haven’t set foot in a video rental store for years, visiting The Movies on 35th Street is almost like returning to a simpler time. It’s exactly like the video store you remember: A muted video plays on the corner TV, movie posters line the front desk, and the owner stands behind the front desk, chatting with customers and methodically polishing DVDs.
Situated smack dab in Powderhorn, the store draws in customers from the surrounding neighborhood. On a recent Monday evening, five or so browsers wandered through the aisles, all of them taking their sweet time in choosing a video.
Owner Tim Hanson said he didn’t foresee getting to know the neighborhood well when he opened the store in 2003, but it’s become something of a community meeting spot.
“People can come in and they see their neighbors, and they see people they haven’t seen for a while,” he said. “It really does happen.”
Paul Chamberlain said he’s been coming to the store since it first opened almost 11years ago. When he requested a larger classics selection, Hanson was responsive. Although Chamberlain sometimes gets movies from other sources, for his family’s weekly Friday movie nights he likes taking his kids to the concrete (that is, non-virtual) store so they can browse together.
“It kind of became part of our family ritual,” Chamberlain said. “Tim is friendly… he’s nice to our kids and he has good movies.”
The video store experience is also part of Laura Rede’s family. While scrutinizing the children’s section with her 6-year-old daughter, Miranda, she explained that they enjoy the process of actually coming into the store.
“We could use Netflix or whatever, but it’s just more fun to go to an actual place, and we want to be supporting a local business,” Rede said. “Its just an outing, a nice walk and a nice store.”
Hanson opened the store in November 2003. He had decided to start his own business, leaving his demanding job as a graphic designer.
“Just dealing with deadlines, or a $50,000 print project where you’re afraid you’ve got one word misspelled and it’s just gonna ruin everything, that kind of stress.” Hanson said.
A video store was the natural choice. He’d worked at a Mr. Movies in high school and though he briefly considered opening a food-related business instead, something about the video rental experience had stuck with him.
It’s no secret that local movie stores have been shutting their doors left and right—with 17% of movie rental storefronts closing in 2012, according to Business week. And USA Today reported that physical DVD rental spending dropped 9% in 2012.