- A Report by Sean Peel for VHSANDCHILL.net
Born in the early 1980's, I was raised with VHS tapes being everywhere. My mom had shelves full of recorded episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation and Quantum Leap. Though it wasn't until 1993, with the release of Jurassic Park, that I would fall in love with movies. I managed to see that movie 11 times in the theater and for a 12-year-old, that's really saying something.
Fast forward to 1998 and I started working at our local Video Update. It was there that that I knew I would love working at video stores. Nothing was more fun than talking with customers and fellow employees about movies day in and day out. There was a period when I was renting 6 movies at a time while I worked on my movie knowledge. I would watch nearly every movie that was recommended to me.
Over the years I worked at Movie Gallery, Hollywood Video, and of course Blockbuster Video. I was there to witness, firsthand, the transition from VHS tapes to DVDs. Although I wasn't 'behind the scenes' in later years, we all witnessed the fall of Blockbuster Video and nearly the end of the entire video rental industry. However, even now in the age of internet streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, some independently-owned video stores still exist here in Oklahoma.
I did a little research and, not including resurgence chains like Family Video, I found several independently owned and operated video stores still in operation around the state. So, my wife and I packed up and went on a little road trip to find and explore the Last of the Oklahoma Video Stores.
Our first stop was the closest in nearby Del City. We pulled up and found the Reel Deal Video Store open and looking ready for business. Once inside we could see that they had a nice mix of blu-ray and DVD movies with a focus on television shows. They had a large selection of previously-viewed movies for sale, included a few old clamshell family films on VHS! They also had the normal assortment of candies, popcorn, and sodas, PLUS some really cool store t-shirts in many sizes available for purchase.
The owner, while a man of few words, did answer a few questions about his store. I found out that they have been in business for about 6 years, with him being the same owner. When asked "What made you want to open your own video store?" He answered with a shrug, "Why not?".
Next up was Video Magic in Madill. Although it wasn't originally on our list, we spotted it while we were passing through town. We instantly turned around to check it out! Once inside we could tell it was a little different than your average video store. Half of the place was devoted to a Tanning Salon!
Inside the video rental section of the store we could see the place was hopping. It was the weekend and kids were running back and forth bringing DVDs and video games up to their folks and asking to rent them. It was a trip! I could see that they rented DVDs, blu-rays, video games but couldn't find any VHS tapes for rental or sale.
One thing I thought was super cool was that they had a large selection of Digital Download movie codes for sale. I had seen this practice before at Family Video, but it was nice to see the rural stores doing the same. Another thing I REALLY enjoyed was their epic movie-themed carpeting all throughout the place! If only I could have that in my house! (The owner wasn't available for interview nor follow up attempts)
As our road trip continued it was my turn to sleep and when I woke up we were in Prague, and right in front of us was Flicks Movies & Games! Inside we met the most wonderful woman who's been running this place for 20 years! She was more than happy to talk with us and explained that Flicks has been in the same location and under the same ownership for its entire 20-year history.
We spoke a bit on the fall of Blockbuster Video and the rise of digital streaming, but apparently neither of those things has really affected business out there. People have always come to Flicks in Prague for their movie needs. Unfortunately, the owner says that they'll be closing for good this year as they're needing to focus more time with family.
This will be one of the stores I'll be making sure to come by again before the doors close forever. They rent DVDs, blu-rays and video games. No VHS tapes anywhere but they do have a sweet Lord of the Rings action figure collection behind the counter!
Our final stop was Perry and it was the largest of all the stores we visited. 2001 Video was originally opened in Tulsa back in 1986, though they moved to Perry in 1989. During the video store heyday, they had a total of 18 stores around the area. They've always been owned by the same owner, though the business was started with his brother in the beginning. He was only 18 when they opened their first store. The owner says they named it 2001 video because they didn't think they'd still be running video stores by the year 2001, yet here they are, still open and renting movies in 2018. They have a great mix of DVDs and blu-ray but what was most surprising was that they have shelf after shelf of GLORIOUS VHS TAPES! I made sure to buy a handful of choice movies before we left.
I asked them if the fall of Blockbuster or the rise of digital streaming had affected them in any way and he said that it really didn't. The nearest Blockbuster was in Tulsa, so when it closed nothing really changed for them. He did mention that a local Movie Gallery had once offered to buy them out. He refused the offer and told them that when THEY closed down he'd be there buying their stuff and that's just what he did. He pointed over to some of their rows of shelving and said that's their old shelves right there.
Interestingly, half of their store was dedicated to furniture sales. There was also a friendly employee there that we spoke to that told us that she had been working there for 20 years! She told us that they once shared their strip mall location with a Wal-Mart and a Lowe's, having outlasted them both. She said that back in the day they were renting nearly 300 movies daily! It's 2018 and 2001 Video shows no signs of slowing down!
Personally, I'm not convinced that the few stores we visited are the ONLY remaining independent video stores left in Oklahoma. Some of these 'Mom & Pop' rental stores don't have much of an online footprint and I think that they like it that way. I'm sure that nestled in the small towns and away from the big highways, they're still out there. Every night renting out VHS tapes, DVDs, Blu-Rays, and the latest video games to the people that have always visited these bastions of the old ways. Somewhere, somebody is leaning over a counter still giving out movie recommendations to waiting customers and that right there brings a great big smile to my face!