Half a week later, and I’m still in shock. We found another still-functioning video store, and it was somehow even better than the last two!
Say hello to Four Star Video. Part of a sleepy strip mall in Vineland, New Jersey, me and Jay ventured there on a hot tip from someone who knows the owner. I had no idea what to expect, but no reason to expect anything even approaching this level of awesomeness.
I mean, it still had a damn VHS dropbox built into its facade. My God.
Run by a great guy named Jeff, Four Star Video opened in 1985. We didn’t have to look long to find proof of that, either. From the old wooden shelves to the hundreds of videocassettes on display, there were portions of that store that had not been modified in more than 30 years.
Best of all, it’s still a legit RENTAL outlet. Jeff was willing to sell pretty much anything in the place (and thank God for that), but the bulk of his business is still straight-up rentals. We were only there for an hour, but we saw many regulars coming in and out, returning DVDs and renting new ones.
After being informed that the videocassettes were indeed for sale, I went to work. Fortunately, the prices were reasonable enough for me to just indiscriminately grab any tape that looked even mildly interesting.
(Clearly a person like me was gonna go home with the first two TMNT movies, but did I really need that copy of Mystic Pizza? In the moment, I guess I just had the fever.)
The story gets SO MUCH BETTER.
After fishing through whatever videos were out in the open, Jeff invited us to RAID HIS BACK SHELVES.
That’s where the real magic was. Beyond the counter were dozens of ancient wooden shelves that were absolutely LOADED with videos. THOUSANDS of videos. Thousands of videos that had not been touched in years, or in some cases, even decades.
I know it’s cliche, but we were like kids in a candy store. Jay is more of a DVD guy, but I was basically grabbing EVERYTHING.
It was hard not to. These weren’t “junky” tapes. I found many that I’ve personally purchased on eBay, individually and specifically. There were three enormous shelves lined with 1980s horror movies, if that’s any indication, and the bulk of them were first releases.
It was just endless. I felt like I was dreaming. I’ve read stories about collectors cleaning out old video stores, but they were always about hardcore fans who live and breathe this stuff. For someone like me, this was like waltzing into a casino and getting the triple 7s on my third pull.
As much as I loved being at Four Star Video, I couldn’t wait to leave. Our luck was so unreal that until we’d successfully gotten those tapes into the car, I wouldn’t let myself believe that it was actually going to happen. I worried that someone would walk in and talk Jeff out of selling them, or that I’d spontaneously combust the second I reached for my wallet.
The reason I’m not mentioning prices is because I have too much respect for this store and its owner to unwittingly send a horde of strangers there, all looking for the exact same experience. Jeff and I share a mutual acquaintance, so for all I know, he cut me a break and let us pick through the private shelves partly because of that.
I’d love it if this article brings him some new customers, because it’s a fabulous store that’s absolutely worth the trip. But I’d feel super guilty if any vultures showed up with a wheelbarrow and a ten dollar bill, y’know? If you plan to go here, just remember that it’s still a legit business and basically the guy’s second home. Be gracious!
I went home with more than a hundred tapes. It was an instant collection, covering everything from Pumpkinhead to Candyman to Jaws 3-D to A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Every single cassette wears an adorable “Four Star Video” sticker. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every tape here has a history, and every tape here has been rented numerous times. I feel a bit like Shang Tsung, sated with a thousand memories that never belonged to me, but are nonetheless now mine.
Jeff even sold me this swank video rental sign, which clearly hadn’t been touched in decades but still miraculously worked.
Huge thanks to Jeff of Four Star Video, and to our mutual friend for giving me the tip. I’m going to spend the rest of March coasting on the fumes of this high. I promise not to complain about anything until April.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go build an igloo out of videotapes and then hide inside with a bag of Doritos.