What Happens When We Lose A Video Store?

Blockbuster Video Store Closing

I just read an article on Indiewire titled “What We Lose When We Lose Video Stores” that was republished from Hammer to Nail about the closing of the neighborhood video store Reel Life in Brooklyn, and an interview by Alex Ross Perry with Reel Life store owner Joe Martin.

There have been plenty of articles recently that chronicled the falls of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, but this time feels different. Instead of reading mostly about the might of big box stores on small mom and pops, this article highlights the positive effects that passionate business owners and passionate people can have on their neighborhoods.

You can head over the article to read it in full, but here are some interesting takeaways (including a bit about video collectors, which I myself actually was one):

– Economics of video stores
– Death of collector’s editions of videos and DVDs
– Loss of local film expertise and strong likelihood that hard-to-find titles WILL ONLY be found online
– Loss of video stores means yet another lost opportunity at human interaction (i.e., neighborhood space)
– Relationship between independent cinema and video stores

I leave with this standout quote: “I don’t want to consider a future populated by people who grew up without nice places to go and explore their developing interests with a stranger whose opinion they trust.”

Director Michel Gondry addressed this inevitability in his 2008 film Be Kind Rewind with Jack Black and Mos Def. It’s worth watching.

So to summarize: there are less local bookstores, there are less local video stores. What will fill our neighborhoods? There are only so many bars, restaurants, and art studios…

[image via Ocala (Florida) Photos]

Will Independent Bookstores Return When Davis Borders Is Liquidated?

Borders - Davis, CA

In 1998, the City of Davis won its lawsuit to get a Borders built in its downtown, much to the chagrin of residents and many of the local independent bookstores.

For over a decade, Borders was the anchor of the Davis Commons Shopping Area. As of 18 July 2011, Borders failed its attempt to find a buyer, and will close each of its remaining 399 stores and fire almost 11,000 employees. All thanks to the miscalculation of expanding ahead of the digital era and a couple of recessions.

It’s a bittersweet ending for the Davis Borders. First, many city residents reviled the book store before it was even constructed. Second, almost all of the local independent bookstores closed after Borders’ opening. Third, not much complaint about those bookstores closing; more laments. If anything, it gave the city more room for additional restaurants and bars. (Lucky those drinking age students.)

But now, local leaders can squabble about how to fill that empty space, which frankly only another Big Box Retailer can fill (unless major renovation is done). The City received almost fifteen (hopefully good) years from Borders. Hopefully for local residents, additional independent bookstores can return to fill that void for book lovers with Borders’ absence.

Will anyone in Davis cry for the beloved downtown Borders? Probably not. And I wouldn’t bet on a Barnes & Noble, it too has financial problems.

[photo via DavisWiki]

How Much Impact Can Walmart Have On A Downtown-Less City?


Elk Grove is a former bedroom community just outside of Sacramento. With 153,015 residents (as of 2010 Census), Elk Grove should no longer be considered as such, since it is a fully vested city that saw growth explode in the past two decades.

With such rapid growth, city leaders reacted instead of envisioned what kind of city that Elk Grove should be. Not surprisingly, the city lacks a true downtown or city center where business and civic activity can truly converge and concentrate.

Ironic, isn’t it, that city leaders would be reluctant to approve a zoning change to classify a Walmart as a “grocery store” so that the big box retailer could be unconstrained by such regulations as hours of operation limits or amount of floor space dedicated to the sale of non-taxable goods. (I am undecided as to whether the latter is more efficient than simply limiting the total amount of floor space in constraining Big Box.)

The Staff Report (PDF) lays out the definitions from the municipal code that regulates the types of businesses that can operate where and how they can operate.

But here’s some food for thought: If Walmart is known for “destroying” downtowns across America, then how much impact can it have on the economy of a city that doesn’t have a true downtown and few traditional local businesses? If the city has nothing from franchises and big box stores, then what would you be fighting for?

[image via Carlson]