Next weekend, there will be no place left to rent a movie to watch on Saturday night in Brick – or anywhere else in the Garden State, for that matter.
After 27 years in business, Bob’s Video Time, the final holdout of what was once a multi-billion dollar industry, is closing its doors in the Briarmill shopping center off Lanes Mill Road.
The shelves are still stocked with Blu-Ray discs, DVDs and video games, but a closeout sale is beginning to take a bite out of the inventory. Business is slow – an occasional regular strolls in to find something to watch for the night – but the hustle and bustle that was once found in this place has gone away for good.
Bob Karpodinis, now 62, began the business when he was 35-years-old. He took a chance on opening a business in his hometown with the hopes of gaining a foothold in a growing industry that was thriving with the popularization of VCRs a few years earlier.
“I lived in Brick, and back then it was a glamorous business to be in, in its own way,” said Karpodinis. “It was like your own piece of Hollywood, and it was a very profitable business.”
Over the years, Karpodinis and his wife manned the counter daily, made sure the latest movies and video games were in stock, and meticulously kept up with rental records and receipts. The business was, in and of itself, a sign of the times. A 1997 episode of Seinfeld even centered around video store culture, with Elaine, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, falling madly in love (so she thought) with a store clerk who made weekly picks for customers.
As the industry grew, so did the competition, but Video Time had carved a local niche that kept its customers returning, again and again, for the personal service that may not have always been present in a massive Blockbuster or Hollywood Video location.
“There were eight video stores in a two mile radius, and they eventually all went out of business,” said Karpodinis. “At least for the last five years, we were the only ones left. People like mom-and-pop stores. They know you from town and they know your name.”
Karpodinis said his store is the last video rental store in the entire state of New Jersey, save for one or two ethnic specialty stores in the state’s Indian community.
The factors behind the industry’s decline is no secret. First, Netflix began offering rentals through the mail for discount prices, eventually leading to broadband video on demand services that represented the final nail in the industry’s coffin. Hundreds of thousands of movies at a viewer’s fingertips, with no need to return discs or face late fees, was too tempting.
Still, some customers remained, including a local couple who came in to find one last movie to rent while a reporter was present.
“I’m going to miss the family atmosphere here,” said Faith Yourth, who has been coming to the store for decades. “I just love Bob, his wife, everything. We got to know them over the years.”
Her husband, Roger, said his wife is a movie buff, and Video Time always had the latest titles even when other stores would run out.
“He always had everything, and he had things ahead of time,” said Roger Yourth. “If you haven’t seen a particular movie, you could always find it here.”
The couple, in their 60s, have broadband Internet access at home, but still prefer choosing which movies to watch as they have for years.
“Netflix is just too limited,” said Roger Yourth.
Karpodinis will close his doors for good next Saturday, Feb. 11. He said since he put up signs announcing the closing, customers have been stopping by to share memories and even shed a few tears. It is those relationships – with his customers and the many staff members he’s employed for years, that he’ll miss the most, he said.
“I would say the best memories were our employees, the young kids who worked here,” said Karpodinis. “They started here and then learned how it is in the working world. I was happy that I could help them along.”
Karpodinis said his next step in life is to maintain and online video sales business he founded several years ago. But nothing will be like running the store.
“We made a lot of friends because we had people coming in constantly,” he said. “We had kids who grew up coming here bringing their kids in here. The people of Brick have been very good to us, supporting us. We made a good living here.”