November 22, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
48°F
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Bookseller Video shutting down after nearly 20 years

ELYRIA — With his movie rental and bookselling days numbered, Paul Crow reflected Thursday on a business that spanned decades.

Paul Crow, owner of Bookseller Video in Elyria, stands in the DVD section Thursday. The store is going out of business with a clearance sale. (CT photo by Steve Manheim.)

Paul Crow, owner of Bookseller Video in Elyria, stands in the DVD section Thursday. The store is going out of business with a clearance sale. (CT photo by Steve Manheim.)

Crow is holding a going-out-of-business sale for his Bookseller Video on South Abbe Road. After nearly 20 years, the 10,000-square-foot store is festooned with “Everything Must Go” signs advertising discounts that will grow as the weeks move closer to a planned Nov. 1 closing.

“We knew our time was coming,” Crow said as he looked over the store where a small number of customers browsed aisles still crammed with thousands of DVD and VHS romances, comedies, dramas, horror movies and war films.

“Renting a movie or buying a used paperback is about the cheapest entertainment you can get,” but cheap prices were ultimately no match for the increasing ease of downloading movies on a PC, renting them by mail or devouring the latest thriller on an e-reader.

Obviously disappointed about having to close up shop, Crow seemed resigned to a fate ordained by the steamroller of ever-changing technology. He said that compared with how long it took DVDs to relegate VHS to the high-technology boneyard, technology nowadays is moving much faster.

“There was a four- to five-year period before DVDs really came on,” he said. “I thought it took a long time to make that switch.”

Not anymore.

“I read that the iPad hit 20 percent of the population in a year,” Crow said with a wan smile.

Crow believes his is the longest-lasting video dealer from the heyday of the VHS craze that began locally in the early 1980s.

“This store opened 18 to 19 years ago,” he said.

Even today, the store still holds an estimated 15,000 VHS movies in addition to tens of thousands of DVD movies, and some 25,000 books — mostly paperbacks — that were once the backbone of the Bookseller name, especially at the 18,000-square-foot store Crow opened in 1986 on Griswold Road.

“At one time, it was the biggest video store in Ohio,” he said. “Where other stores would get a few (VHS) copies of a movie, we’d get 20 to 30. You had better odds of finding it here.”

Crow managed to hang on longer than local outlets of major chains such as Network Video, Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery, as well as mom-and-pop local operations Heights Video and Video Playback.

As revenue gradually shrank at both stores, costs of doing business kept slowly edging up. The Griswold Road store closed in 2001.

Crow had pointed words for movie rental services such as Redbox, which rents movies from vending machines.

“That was not a good thing for the movie business,” he said. “They cheapened the whole industry by making everyone think that movies were only worth $1.”

Then again, he also blamed an overall decline in the quality of movies for a steadily shrinking number of rentals, especially during the past three to four years.

“We had a lot of good customers — and still have,” he said, noting that he’s had good employees over the years, too. “They’re all good people. It’s a shame.”

In addition to movies and books, Bookseller drew a lot of people in with its approximately 50 lottery games, and a Western Union franchise.

“We had about 30 to 40 people who came in to pay their bills that way every month,” he said.

The close-out sale will see discounts on DVD, VHS and Blu-ray titles increase as the weeks progress.

“Everything is 30 percent off now, and we’ll change the discount as we go along,” Crow said. “It’s been a good run.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.