Duluth video store remains open in dying industry

As the door swings open, an immediate smell of buttered popcorn fills the air. The shelves are stacked full, and the clerk remembers each person by name. There is friendly chatter all around as people converse about their next pick for the Friday night entertainment. This happy place full of addicting smells happens to be a video store. Video stores, like this one, and the weekend adventures they bring, used to be the thing to do and the place to go. The movies are still there, the video store however, is disappearing.

Rental stores  in business in 1990.

  • All Star Video – Bristol Street
  • All Star Video – Central Entrance
  • DJ Video – East Central Entrance
  • Eighth St. Video – Ninth Street
  • Grand Avenue Milk House and Convenience Store – Grand Avenue
  • Kenwood Video – Arrowhead Road
  • Late Nite Video – North Central Avenue
  • Movie Magic – Woodland Avenue
  • Mr. Movies – East Superior Street
  • Personal Video Services – Waterfront Plaza
  • Piedmont Video – Piedmont Avenue
  • Pike Lake Video – Miller Trunk Highway
  • Proctor Video – Fourth Street
  • Twinports Video Center – East Central Entrance
  • USA Video – West First Street
  • Video Forty Seven – 47th Street
  • Video To Go – West Superior Street
  • Video Vision – Central Duluth
  • Video Vision – Miller Hill
  • Video Vision – West First Street
  • Video Vision – Kenwood
  • Video Vision - Superior

After 15 years, Earl Sullivan is still running his “Flick and Lick” shop on 714 N. 47 Ave. E. in Lakeside. There used to be 22 video rental shops in Duluth over 20 years ago, but now his shop is one of two video rentals left in the Duluth area, not counting the grocery stores that also rent videos.“It’s a shame that it’s a lost culture of people coming in and talking about movies,” said Sullivan, owner of 8th Street Video.

“It used to be that people wanted to come in and hold that movie jacket and physically touch it,” Sullivan said.

One of the reasons these video stores are disappearing are from the online streaming programs like Netflix, and the video vending machines like Redbox.

Netflix is a way for families to enjoy their movies straight from their television, or have the movies sent straight to their door. Redbox is a kiosk that rents out DVD’s, Blu-Ray Discs, and video games in 12 square foot vending machine. However, having programs like Netflix are great for immediate videos, but in actuality the video store like at 8th Street Video, actually get new releases much faster than anyone else.

Jay Giddings, a regular customer at 8th St. Video for about four years uses Redbox every now and then but usually comes to the video store.

“It takes too long for Redbox to get many of the new releases,” Giddings said. “I like to get them as fast as possible.”

Sullivan explains that video rental stores actually get the new releases much earlier than the online streaming or video kiosks.

“We get the videos in about 40 to 50 days ahead of most places because we have the access to it,” Sullivan said. “If Redbox or Netflix has it, they all have it. But if one doesn’t have it, they all don’t have it.”

The trick to keeping the video stores alive is finding a way to get customers to continue coming back, which is just what Sullivan has done.

“Ice cream,” Sullivan explains. “Movies rent better in the winter time anyway, but the ice cream keeps people coming in here all year round.”

Sullivan has ice cream all year round at the 8th Street Video “Flick and Lick” and has lived in Lakeside for almost 40 years.

“People walk right in here because they see ice cream,” Sullivan explains. “It’s a nice neighborhood where kids just come in on their way from school.”

Nate Nelson, manager of the 8th St. Video for almost five years, thinks the key to keeping the customers is all about the experience.

“It’s all about customer relations,” Nelson said. “On Friday nights we will have the popcorn machine running, mini doughnuts, and the place is so packed you can barely move.”

As far as movies go, Sullivan plans on continuing the competition with Netflix and Redbox.

“We are always going to be making progress,” Sullivan said. “When you get a pop from the pop machine, you get to choose the pop that’s only in the machine. That’s how movies work too. If they want a movie that’s in the machine they can, but if they want more choices, they will come here.”

So how long before physical movies are all gone?

“It’s just a beginning of the end for movies,” Sullivan said.

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