Every now and again, I scour local business directories for any last remaining video stores. (And please, let’s not get into any semantics battles: Even when they’re renting DVDs, I still call them “video stores.”)
As you know, they’re a dying breed. I used to only complain when larger chains were killing off the gloriously unique “mom & pop” stores, but now, even the giants have fallen – or are falling quickly. (We don’t even have a single Blockbuster left in my city.)
It’s not like I don’t understand why they’re going away. Between my computer and cable box, the only movies I couldn’t easily find are old and obscure things that only a handful of people would ever seek out anyway. Renting a movie need not involve travel, and even if it did, there’s a Redbox machine everywhere you look.
Still, and with full admission that nostalgia plays a huge part in me saying so, those conveniences will never compare to walking up and down video store aisles, basing your night’s entertainment not on previews or star ratings, but on VHS/DVD box art.
No matter who you were, what you were into or where you were from, there were few places as simply “comfortable” as a video store. Even if money was involved, it had the charm of a library, and the process of going there and being there was often more fun than watching the movies!
For the past year, my searches for such stores have been unsuccessful. Yeah, I could’ve driven to one of those last remaining Blockbusters, but that wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I wanted the GRITTY kind. The aforementioned “mom & pop” kind. The ones that weren’t a part of any major chain. The ones with lots of hand-drawn signs, and the slight stink of stale cardboard mixed with old electronics. That’s where the real magic is, and until yesterday, I thought those relic stores were too far from my neck of the woods to consider.
BUT THEN I FOUND THIS PLACE:
Majors Records. Holy shit.
The most incredible thing about Majors was that it was actually IN my city. Apparently, there’s a series of shopping plazas tucked on a part of Staten Island that I almost never venture to. With the hope that the few online mentions of this store weren’t outdated, we drove out there last evening. Even before I found Majors, the experience was already magic. Throughout the course of X-E and Dino Drac, I thought I’d seen every last inch of my city, searching for “reviewable” locations. Discovering a bunch of “new” shopping plazas made me feel like I’d driven through a supernatural portal and ended up in some other place and time.
The store was everything I wanted it to be, but before we go inside, I need to set things up properly…
The listed address for Majors led us to a Pathmark. Obviously, we were confused, and my first thought was that I was chasing a video store that’d shut down over a decade ago. Then we noticed a “Majors” sign somewhere on the building, which seemed to insinuate that it was inside Pathmark. That made little sense to us, but we weren’t about to give up.
Sure enough, it WAS inside. Majors was one of several stores that existed as a “mini-mall” leading INTO Pathmark, and if this doesn’t sound strange to you, all I can say is that it’s REALLY strange for Staten Island. This sort of layout may have been common decades ago – even before I was born – but it’s not something you see around here now.
It boggles my mind to think that a nostalgia-chaser like me could’ve lived so close to this plaza for so many years, and never once seen it in person. Even the Pathmark at the end of the hallway was organized in that weird way supermarkets used to be organized more than 20 years ago. (That’s another story — and a good one.)
Since I was yearning for a video store that hinted at the flavors of those of my youth, this introduction was a very good sign. Still, nothing could’ve prepared me for what was inside Majors.
Now sure, you could argue that Majors isn’t a video store, because technically, I guess it isn’t. They’ve been around for 40 years (I asked), and still retain the name from when they more exclusively dealt in record albums – even before VHS tapes were around!
Even so, it still IS a video store – at least in spirit. Every wall is lined with DVDs to rent, all for the low price of 99 cents a night. The fact that they also sell DVDs, and VHS movies, and records and CDs, only adds to the majesty.
Here’s a big pile of pictures. If you don’t study the movies too hard, you’d think I was unearthing photos from 1986!
The owners were good guys who did not at all take issue with me running around like a lunatic to snap 500 photos. Course, they were probably a little confused by it. Thing is, in terms of video stores, this was the last man standing. It truly was. There may be a few more hiding around my hometown, but they’re not so much “rental places” as street corner stores that use a small portion of their space to rent out DVDs, just for kicks.
It had the all of the charms that I was hoping for. The handwritten signs. The random stickers. Racks fashioned with no universal look. Even if those shelves were filled with DVDs, they were obviously once stuffed with VHS movies. I’m not sure if the owners realize what they have, here. This place should be a protected landmark!
I just about died when I came across the horror section. I had serious doubts that I’d ever see an honest-to-goodness old school “horror rental” section again.
The memories came flooding back. Even if I was too scared of those movies to rent them as a kid, poring over the horror section was ALWAYS the thing to do. It’s where my fascination with horror movie VHS art finds root.
Eventually, I did begin to rent them, and there was just nothing quite like picking a scary movie based on how interesting its box looked. For me, none of today’s conveniences outweigh the greatness of that.
(And how could they? No matter how good the horror movie was, its box art always made it seem ten times better. I love Ghoulies, but you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think the image of that green demon popping out of a toilet accounted for 50% of its charm.)
Outside the store were a bunch of bins, filled with VHS tapes for sale. Granted, buying VHS tapes on the cheap is no big deal, but knowing that that these were actual “video store” tapes made them so much more special. Many even had “Previously Enjoyed” stickers on them! I love those!
I’ll be pissed if I find out that those old Disney “clamshell” cassettes are still worth money, because they had nearly all of them, and I bought exactly none of them.
Majors also sells old records, audio cassettes and music CDs, all at thrift store prices. Again, part of the appeal was in knowing that much of the stock was leftover from when the store sold them at retail prices. Think about this: There are things that have been in Majors for longer than many of us have been alive. No exaggeration!
They even had racks of old books and magazines, to make matters that much more awesome.
We stayed in Majors for almost an hour, afraid to miss one iota of its greatness. During that time, I saw plenty of the store’s “regulars” come and go. That was such a freakin’ thrill. Actual people, actually renting movies, from an actual video store. The owners and locals couldn’t possibly think much of it, but for someone like me, simply knowing that this still goes on, so close to home, meant so much.
I realize that some of you still have a video store within driving distance. For you, it’s a dying fad, but not a dead one. Still, that’s not the case for many of us. For me, this was a total scream-with-joy discovery. I don’t know how often I’ll go to Majors, but I’m damn sure I’ll be there again, and SOON.
We didn’t set up a rental account just yet, but I did outright buy a few things. I needed none of it, but hey, I’d just spent an hour treating someone’s store like a tourist attraction. It was the least I could do.
I grabbed Howling III, because there was no way I was leaving Majors without something in the realm of classic, cheesy horror. Then I grabbed Ghostbusters 2, because that cover art is a heck of a lot cooler than the “slime green” version that’s become the norm. Toss in a Goosebumps video and some weird books, and I left a happy camper.
Yesterday was a good day. And it’s great to have another “happy place” that I can run to whenever I need a boost. Thank you for (miraculously still) existing, Majors.