Thirty-four years ago, a local video store opened its doors with a meager inventory but a strong hope for the future.
“We always liked movies, like 90 percent of the people do,” said Steve Turk, who owns the Video Theater stores in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls with his wife, Jannice.
“There was a delivery we got, something shipped to us. People would stuff them with newspapers and whatever for packing, and in this one was ‘Video Store Magazine,” Steve said.
He said the content caught his eye; it was all about independent video stores, and at that time, no chains really existed yet.
“There were several stories about these little video stores, and we did know, at that time, about the one in Video Station in Coeur d’Alene,” he said. “I got to thinking about it and it sounded like a fun thing to do.”
The couple worked full-time jobs and were starting their family, but they went for it. They acquired the $15,000 necessary to open the store (nearly $36,000 in today’s money) and opened for business that February.
The Turks started at the location in Post Falls with 145 movies, then opened a Coeur d’Alene location in 1987. They have been at the present Coeur d’Alene location, 1910 N. Government Way, for about 25 years. The Post Falls store is located at 109 E. Seltice Way.
A large chunk of the funds needed to start the business, more than $10,000, was just for the video home system (VHS) tapes.
“Those tapes were worth $80. Our cost was just under $70,” Steve said. “They were like gold.”
Eventually, more competition popped up, such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, but business was good for a long time.
“Weekends were very busy. A lot of people still didn’t own VCRs then. We’d rent the machines out and there’d be a waiting list,” Steve said. “It was really a family event when weekends came around to rent movies.”
“It wasn’t something you could do on your phone,” Jannice said. “People were so worried about what they were going to get for their kids’ birthday parties. It was a lot of pressure for us, I thought, to make sure that their little child wasn’t disappointed, because it was different than it is now where you can just dial ‘er up.”
Through the years, Steve and Jannice have buckled down during tough times, paid attention to the market and maintained loyal staff. One staff member has worked for them part-time for 25 years.
“We’ve always had good employees,” Jannice said. “We just have the best.”
“When you walk in somewhere, wherever it is, when someone hopefully acknowledges you, that’s the kind of store you like to go to,” Steve said.
See VIDEO, 11
As the video rental industry changed and streaming and home delivery service was introduced, things went south for big chain stores. Blockbuster officially closed its locations across the nation in 2013, and slowly the other stores followed suit.
“(Streaming) really wasn’t a reality yet because it didn’t work very well. It would buffer all the time,” Steve said. “The press kind of killed it before its time. The chains got hit the hardest because you have a downturn in 2,000, 3,000 locations. I think it was trying to kill it off before it was dead. They were saying renting movies was dead 10 years ago. It isn’t.”
“We’ve been worried lots of times,” Jannice said. “There’s always something that comes. And you’re at the mercy of the movies that are made, too. Some years, box office in the theaters is way down, and we’re going to follow that, and other years it’s a great year for movies so we follow that. You just have to adjust, be aware and adjust.”
Yet, Video Theater still stands, outlasting national chains and still experiencing a good volume of business.
“It’s just like retail anything,” Steve said. “I think there will always be clothing stores or whatever.
“There’s something about coming into a store, picking it up, looking at it, reading the box. We have stuff we can’t get anywhere else.”
The video store industry is starting to see a revival as niche stores open in big cities and speak to the nostalgia of Generation X.
But Video Theater doesn’t need a revival. It’s been here all along, understanding its clientele, providing free popcorn and renting movies for a steal of a deal for those who are willing to leave their homes and enjoy the in-the-flesh experience of picking up movie boxes, finding obscure titles and giving their eyes a rest from the screen for a few minutes.
“I wish I felt like there was a secret (to longevity),” Steve said. “It’s always been super hard work from the time we started, and it still is.”
“The people of Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene, hopefully most of them still realize that it is the local businesses you support that really make the community go,” Jannice said. “I think that’s why we have a lot of customers who have been with us a long time because they also had businesses, and most of them are retiring now, but they know what it’s like. They know it may be a little less convenient than their phone to just have something dialed up, but they also realize it is what keeps the tax base going.”