Thanks to our successes at that one video store, me and Jay vowed to hit every other video store within driving distance. After all, these places aren’t going to be around forever. It’s a miracle they’re still around now.
First on the list was The Video Shop in Belmar, New Jersey. Online info was scant and vague, and we actually had no idea if the store was still even open.
Fortunately, it was, and ohhhh boy, it was GLORIOUS.
When we pulled up to The Video Shop, I called the trip a net win before even knowing if it was still operational. Just getting to see that awesome sign was worth the drive. It was obviously made in the ‘80s, what with the hastily added “DVD” mention on a line of text that refused to make room for it.
The cracks and discoloration just made me want to marry it that much more.
Rarely am I intimidated by the sort of bullshit I write about, but tonight I’m nervous. This place was so good and so pure and so miraculous in its very existence that I fear I can never do it justice.
But I’ll try.
The Video Shop was exactly the type of place I had in mind when creating Dino Drac’s Video Store. It was 100% mom-and-pop.
Its glory years long over, The Video Shop has seemingly settled into “lark” territory. The owner, a nice man who sorta reminded me of Harry Dean Stanton, presumably owns the attached home and thus pays no rent. My impression is that he hangs around mainly for the fun of it.
I don’t know what The Video Shop was like in its heyday, but it felt like it’d been cobbled together from the remains of 12 other video stores. The shelving units were inconsistently designed, and a few of the placards looked like they were pilfered from a dead Blockbuster. I could not have loved it more. Nothing made sense, yet everything did.
I only noticed the DVDs at first. All of them were for sale, but many were also available to rent. (We even saw a few customers returning discs, so yeah, this place has its regulars. Warms my heart!)
Eventually, I spotted the videocassettes. HUNDREDS of them. They were on sale for a buck each, and mixed in were dozens that’d originally come from other (and now long gone) video stores. Yes!
Naturally, I bought some tapes. More on that later.
I spun around in joyous disbelief, sober but drunk. I know that some of you still have local-enough video stores, but around here, they are so close to completely dead that most people assume they already are. Finding this place was like bombing into Level 9 in Zelda.
It reminded me so much of this one video store we used to go to. It wasn’t our first, and it certainly wasn’t our last.
If you’re old enough, you may recall the rental boom that led to a sudden explosion of video stores. Some of them were kind of half-baked, looking less like the fruits of long-term plans and more like kiosks at indoor flea markets. They never had more than one copy of the hottest new release, but they made up for it with a thousand pounds of charm.
When I was in middle school, there was a video store like that just a few blocks away. Last time I checked, it’d become a liquor store that proudly displayed a collection of penis-shaped brandy bottles.
The Video Shop even had an old school adult section, complete with swinging saloon doors!
I’m guessing that the adult section accounts for at least 50% of The Video Shop’s business, considering that it gets almost as much store space as everything else combined.
There were hundreds of DVDs inside, and only after darkening the final photo that much was I even halfway confident that I’d hid enough skin.
(By the way, some of you are impressively specific with your wants and needs.)
After spending nearly an hour devouring every inch of The Video Shop, it was time to settle up.
The owner gave me a break on the price, asking just $15 for all of those tapes. None of them are particularly valuable (he said he has regular buyers who pick him clean), but when you’re offered a copy of Halloween 4 for less than a buck, you dance.
God knows how long The Video Shop will stick around for, but I feel so incredibly fortunate that I got to see a place like this in 2017.
Hell, seeing a place like this will probably be the highlight of 2017.