Business

Hasta la vista, baby: Coupeville loses its last video store

Videoville owner Alice Martin points to an autograph photo of Johnny Depp, purchased from Frank Bank, aka Lumpy from Leave it to Beaver. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Videoville owner Alice Martin points to an autograph photo of Johnny Depp, purchased from Frank Bank, aka Lumpy from Leave it to Beaver.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

As of Friday morning there isn't a store in Coupeville where movie-goers can rent a video.

Videoville, located on South Main Street, is selling its collection in preparation of closing at the end of the month.

Alice Martin, who owns the local video store along with her husband, Mike, said she hasn't turned a profit since buying Videoville two years ago. She said that she's never even paid herself a salary.

When the Martins took over Videoville, they were hopeful for success. John Provost, who portrayed Timmy from Lassie, visited Videoville to help kick off the Martins' ownerships.

Martin had hoped to bring in other stars from old television shows to Videoville, but that fantasy was never realized.

"There never was enough money in the coffers from day one," Martin said.

Videoville boasted approximately 8,000 titles, 4,500 of which were VHS and a large number of Blu ray discs. The tape format remains popular with many Central Whidbey residents, Martin said.

More than just video rentals, Videoville offered a dinner and a movie. Take-and-bake pizza and Italian gelato were available to complement the rentals. The store also provided a selection of Americana and memorabilia that should have attracted movie buffs eager to add to their collection. Walking into the store this week, there was a display of Coke merchandise next to a TV showing the latest child-friendly movie. Old movie posters, photographs and even a lunchbox were for sale. Incidentally, she has an autographed photo of Johnny Depp on the wall she purchased from Frank Bank, who is better known as Lumpy from Leave it to Beaver.

She cited several factors in having to close her business. She said online services and vending machines such as Redbox have hurt business, but she noted the drawbacks of both services. Online services require a movie to be returned before another is rented, while the kiosks found in major supermarkets offer parents less control in what their children watch.

"We were always trying to maintain a family friendly atmosphere," Martin said.

There was a second DVD rental business in town, David's DVD Den, but a visit to the Coveland Avenue store Wednesday afternoon found that the doors were locked, no business hours were posted and the number listed in the phone book had been disconnected. Owner David Sven could not be reached.

Martin said a second rental store in town skimmed some business from Videoville. Ultimately, neither store could be viable in a town the size of Coupeville.

The declining video business has also struck Oak Harbor. Blockbuster closed its store near Albertsons and, several years ago, locally owned Top of the Hill videos folded as well. Albertsons closed its in-house movie rental section in favor of two Redbox machines outside.

Further south, Freeland Video recently closed and Pay-Less grocery ended its video rental business. It now has one rental machine.

Now that Videoville is no longer renting movies, it is selling them until the store closes at the end of the month. The store will be the site of a large garage sale Martin will conduct the first week of September.

Martin is still weighing her options as to her next step. She is considering traveling to Oregon or Alaska. She may even start selling on eBay.

What she is going to miss the most is the customers and employees she has grown attached to over the past two years.

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