Remember When- The Video Store

Remember when they ruled the world?
March 14, 2011
Volume 5:
Remember When Video Stores ruled the world?

Ladies and gentlemen, I have returned. Not that I didn't stop by every now and then to check in, but I just didn't have the time to contribute to an article, and I really didn't feel like giving you something half-assed. For those out there who follow my work and have always offered kind words, I apologize for my absence. As I'm sure most of you can imagine, things got busy at work during the holidays, and stayed busy until about a week or so ago. Honestly, its not surprising. There's a lot of changes that tend to happen at the start of a new year. We've all had to deal with that.

Lately, a sad sign of the future had reared its ugly head. The sign reads, “Store Closing”. That bright yellow sign with the black letters has been tied to nearly every Blockbuster Video in my area. Three days ago, my Blockbuster announced its closing. I am, honestly, very sad. You have no idea how much that store front means to me. I have a lot of really great memories in that place, but astonishingly, not as a Blockbuster. It was my old video store that held my memories, and continued to hold them until now (I'll explain). It feels good to finally ask you:

Remember when Video Stores ruled the world?

About 12 or 13 years ago, NP Video had a "Thanks For 20 Great Years" sign on their window. They were closing for good. I spent my childhood in NP Video, literally. NP Video was in the same shopping center as my family's bank, my family's dry cleaner, my family's barber shop, our CVS, and our Ground Round. No matter what we were doing at the shopping center, my brother and I always found our way to NP Video. We would always beg our parents to let us rent a movie, or an N64 game. The most time we spent there was when we went to Ground Round.

Man, Ground Round. I literally tear up when I think about the place. See, when we were kids, my mom worked nights and my dad worked days. We'd get home around 3:15 or so, and we'd see my mom. She'd leave 25 minutes later, and then my dad would be home by 4:15. Since she worked nights, we only had dinners as an entire family on weekends. So my dad would pack my brother and I into his van twice a week and take us to Ground Round. We would go on Tuesday nights because it was Penny a Pound night. However much you weighed is what you paid. I.E. 65 pounds of kid would cost you .65 cents for dinner (and we wonder why they went out of business). Usually, we would only go next door to the video store if we wanted to play their arcade games, which when we were younger didn't happen often because Ground Round had an arcade.

The other night that we went to Ground Round was Friday. Fridays as a kid in my town was the best. Everyone went to Ground Round for dinner because no one wanted to cook that night. So when you got there, you would see all of your friends from school. We'd all play the arcade games, eat dinner, and then the night cap was a trip to NS Video. This is what made Fridays at Ground Round really worth while. You were setting up your weekends entertainment in one trip. My brother and I were each allowed to pick something out, so you can be sure that we schemed our picks together. He always got a video game. Most of the time, we agreed with what games we wanted. He would pick that up, and I would pick out a tape of our choice. If there weren't any videos that we liked, I'd pick out a video game too, and we'd really be set for the weekend. It was all about the Nintendo from Friday night through Sunday evening.

Talk about scheming, we would even get our friends involved. Like I said, everyone who was everyone who knew everyone was at the restaurant. It was likely that we would run into someone that we'd be seeing over the weekend, either play date or sleepover. If they were renting something, we wouldn't do it. We'd get something else that we all wanted. We were very democratic as kids, which always made for a plethora of fun. NP Video was a staple of my childhood. I can still see all of the tapes, aisle by aisle. All of the new releases were on the left hand side as soon as you walked in. Opposite the new releases were the horror movies, which you usually avoided looking at as a kid. On the flip aside of the horror films (because remember, the shelves were two sided to optimize space) were all of the kids movies and the video games. The entire aisle, shelves on both sides, filled with kiddy fun. Then the next aisle was all comedy. The final aisle was drama and action.

At the back of the store was the counter, behind of which was rows and rows of tapes. In our store, you'd bring the tape box to the counter, and then they would walk to the back, get the tape, and put it in a case for you. On the far right side, the counter turned to glass, and you could buy movie merchandise. It was all of the promotional stuff that the store didn't want anymore after a movie wasn't a new release. Next to that counter was a back room with a curtain over it that said, Adult Only. I don't know what was back there. Towards the front of the store, we had the arcade games. They would usually change them out frequently, but the main stays were the Crane Machine, the Candy Crane Machine, and a Guns N Roses pinball machine. A big square room of fun. That, my dears (channeling Feany) was our video store, NP Video.

My childhood, my innocence, my early life, was spent there. As we got older, we still went to Ground Round, but the demand for seating forced them to do away with the arcade games. That's when we started heading to NP Video for arcade games as well as our tapes and video game rentals. That store was a real coming of age place for me. Some for better, and some for worse. Like I said before, it helped us understand sharing and compromise. We saw the change from VHS to DVD. After a while, it taught me how to budget my money. We would have to use our allowance to rent things, and we learned how to budget ourselves and keep up with the new rentals so that we had enough to rent what we wanted when it came out. Sad to say however, it wasn't always good to “come of age” in that store.
There is a story that I'll share with you that, to this day, I'm not proud of, and this was nearly 15 years ago! I was 10 or 11 years old. My dad and I had gone to a hockey game, like we usually did on a Saturday night. We decided to go to Ground Round after the game. After a few cokes, I decided to go to the video store to play some games. I headed for the Crane Game, which I was pretty good at. Now for years, they had a hockey wristwatch in the machine, and for years no one was able to get to it because it was buried at the bottom of the machine. Finally, someone in the store mixed up the prizes, and the watch was towards the top. I was thrilled, and I spent a few dollars trying to win it. As per usually with one of these things, the stupid watch got buried worse than it had been, because the claw kept dropping it. So being a frustrated kid, you give it the old college try, and find a stick. The idea being that you'll hook the thing, and yank it out of a machine.

Anyone who has tried this before (and most of you have), know that this never works. On this particular evening, it still didn't work and I had given up. The girl behind the counter at the video store was hanging with a bunch of her friends, and they found it to be funny. They also thought it would be funny to mess with someone much younger than them, and take advantage of them being a gullible kid. Following this moment, I swore that I would never be that person, outside of the fact that I never would have anyway because I'm a pretty much good guy anyway, but this was the icing on the cake. Here's how it happened:

They start laughing and joking around with me. They ask me my name, and like an idiot I tell them. I figured they weren't grown ups, so they couldn't be strangers right? And they were being nice to me, so I can trust them. They were my new friends. Yeah, I realistically believed that a bunch of high schoolers would befriend an 11 year old. I honestly was never this gullible, but they honestly caught me with my guard down. They say to me, Try this, and they hand me a bent hanger. Wouldn't you know, this one actually worked.

I got it out of the machine! The wristwatch was mine! For all of four seconds that is. The girl who worked there, the same one who was laughing and had aided in HangerGate, takes the watch from me, yells at me, then threatens to call my house and tell me mother. Remember when they asked my name? She looked up our information in their system and got my phone number. The entire thing was a set up. They got their laughs that night out of getting a little kid into trouble. I bolt out of there and tell my dad what had happened. Now he wasn't too happy with what I did, but he had chalked it up to kids being kids, and was more mad that they had done that to me.

We don't think much of it after that. He figures that they took the watch because they wanted it and that they were bluffing. We pull up to our house, and I see my brother watching for us out the window. I say to my dad, "They called". He says they didn't, since they set the entire thing up. Wouldn't you know, we walk in the house and my mom is waiting. She says that they called and said I was stealing things. She was really mad, but thankfully my dad backed me up on it. After he told her what happened, she wasn't mad anymore. In fact, she called the owners two days later to tell them what had happened. My folks had known them for years, so they knew they would smooth things over. As per my mom though, I stayed away from the store for a few weeks.

I shouldn't have been trying to get it to begin with, and that's what I regret to this day. On the other hand, it did teach me something about right and wrong, and who to trust and who not to trust. Not to mention 15ish years later, I got to share the tale of HangerGate. Do me a favor, and share some of your similar stories in the comments section. I'd like to see if this ever happened to anyone else. There is a funny end to his story though. About a year or so later, they were thanking us for the good years. I went in there with my dad and my brother to do a little going out of business shopping. I picked up a bunch of WWF tapes, my brother got a video game (Gex The Gecko for N64), and my dad looked around the place, remembering all of the good times. I think he took it pretty hard at the time. He would talk about taking us there as babies. To him, a baby is anyone 6 years old and under. As we're checking out, I go to the merch counter to see if there's anything good in there. Wouldn't you know it, there's the watch. I had to smile. The owner comes up to me and asks me if I want to buy it. We look at each other and smile, because we both know why he offered. He wanted ten dollars for it. He sold it for me for five. He was a good man. In the end, it was a happy ending I suppose. I got what I wanted, and had to pay for it. He got extra green to take with him on his retirement vacation, and a certain bubble headed high school girl got a pink slip. Life is good.

As it turns out, NP Video was being bought out by Blockbuster video, which opened shortly after NP Video sadly shut its door for good. To this day, I always had a bitter taste in my mouth. Like I kept saying before, that place meant the world to me. It was my childhood, my life. It was every sleepover I ever had. It was every Friday night through my adolescence, and it was gone over a Blockbuster. In protest, we decided to rent from another place. 4 Star Video was a great place to rent from. All of the people, except for one, who worked at NP Video got jobs there, so it was like a family reunion. It was almost as if the store had moved down the road, and everyone was happy. Then Hollywood Video came to town, and Netflix took off.

4 Star Video was a casualty. At that point, it was Blockbuster or nothing. I honestly chose nothing. The only time I went to Blockbuster was when the used DVDs were on sale and I could get 4 movies for $20.00. As everyone had seen, all of the Blockbusters are closing shop all over the place. This actually started in my area about 2 years ago. It was great too, because all of the used DVDs were under five bucks. By now, they caught onto the fact that people are willing to buy them, and so they're marked up. In fact, the had used DVDs that were more expensive than the new copies they were selling. Even better, yesterday, I grabbed a copy of Reality Bites. It was marked as $9.99, but the sticker was peeling off of it. I looked at the price it was covering $4.99. They actually marked it up because it was 10% off with the going out of business sale. I showed the guy at the counter, and I got it for $4.99, minus 10%.

Its kind of funny isn't it? Netflix put the video stores out of business. A service where you have to wait for your movies to arrive, and sometimes, you don't even know what movie you're getting, put the video store 5 minutes away, where you knew what you wanted and where to get it and how long it would take to have it, out of business. Its like Best Buy. They're stocking less in the store so you can buy it online (and because of Amazon). But even so, remember the good old days when you wanted something and could have it in 15 minutes? So much more convenient to have to wait a week, isn't it? The only good part of Netflix, to me, is the ability to download it on your video gaming consoles. You can get the movies immediately, but when it was new and putting our video stores out of business, this wasn't the case.

Either way, I miss my video store. We lost it to a Blockbuster that is going out of business. Seems like a waste to me right? That's the salt in the wound my friends. For all of the kids in my town, we lost a piece of our childhood for something that wasn't as good, but had a corporate name. I only wish the place could have stayed in business a little longer. I wish it was still in business now! If I want a movie, I want it now! I want to go out and bring it home in 10 minutes, just like the good old days.

Remember when Video Stores ruled the world? How many sleepovers and weekends started and ended at the video store? What are your stories? What are your memories? Thanks for spending a good chunk of time with me on this one, I know it lasted a while. I hope you all enjoyed it.

Man its good to be back
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