Signing Off: Keene's Last Video Rental Store Closing Up Shop

Jun 5, 2015

The sign outside Video HeadQuarters in Keene.
Credit thecaldorrainbow.blogspot.com

It’s a sign of the times in Keene, where the city’s last-standing video rental store announced this week it’s closing up shop.

Video HeadQuarters opened in 1983, and at one time was one of the highest-grossing video stores in the nation.

But a rapidly evolving home entertainment industry finally caught up with the business. The store will close next month.

Owner Ken McAleer joined NHPR’s Morning Edition from his video store in Keene.

With the rise of services like Netflix and Redbox, there must have been a sense of inevitability. Still, how difficult a decision was this for you?

Oh, it’s very difficult, but it was the only option.

You say the only option because business has just fallen off rapidly recently or has this been a gradual decline?

It’s been a steady decline over the past five or six years. More recently, it’s accelerated a bit. It just got to a point where our lease is up and to enter into another long-term contract for retail space was just absurd.

What was business like in the store’s heyday?

The place was crazy. We’d have seven people on a Friday night. Saturday night, there’d be eight staff at counters. We’d have four or five registers going nonstop. It would just be busy, busy, busy.

Back when video stores were thriving, it seems like they were part of the social scene of a town.

Oh, absolutely. The video store was the place years ago if you had a new boyfriend of girlfriend, that’s where you took them to show them off. You went down there and all your friends were there. It really was a phenomenon.

Similar to a record store, I think.

Yes, similar to a record store or a drive-in; anywhere people gathered to socially interact and also get entertained.

What’s been the reaction from some of your long-time customers?

Oh, they’re saddened. We’ve seen just hundreds of posts on Facebook saying they’re sorry to see us go and how terrible this is and wishing us luck. Everybody seems to love the store, but they realize what's going on.

Do you still have longtime customers that do streaming services like Netflix or Amazon, but also still come in?

Yeah, there’s some. But there’s things we have you can’t get anywhere else.

Like what?

We have 42,000 pieces of inventory here, of movies. We have hundreds and hundreds of foreign films and classics that just aren’t available on any streaming service.

What are you going to miss most about the business?

I’m going to miss the customers and I’m going to miss the staff. We’ve been doing this for 32 years and we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people work here. They’re really what made the place as great as it got.

You’re starting a going-out-of-business sale Friday. What can people expect to find?

Almost everything that’s been released to video in the last 30 years. We have tons of copies of new releases. We have a huge selection of foreign films, documentaries, and classic movies. We have things on VHS that were never released on DVD.

You still have customers who come in for VHS tape?

Yes, we do. We have customers who rent VHS. Sometimes they rent them because it’s the only way to see the movie.

What would become of some of that inventory that maybe you don’t sell off?

If we don’t sell it off – we’re certainly going to try – but anything that’s left over we’ll probably end up donating somewhere.