Well, this week brought with it some interesting news: DISH Network has announced that it will be closing the remaining 300 retail Blockbuster stores in the United States, as well as cease their Netflix-inspired mailing service. This doesn’t come as a tremendous surprise, given that the franchise had been reduced to 300 stores in the U.S. to begin with. Here in Canada, that was a pill we already swallowed a couple of years back.

For me, I have to admit that this feels kind of personal. Not in a “oh, they’re closing the stores just to spite me” kind of personal, but in that Blockbuster has played a not-insignificant part in my life over the years. Certainly, it’s been fading sadly away as time goes on, with the locations which meant anything to me having already long since passed, but there is nonetheless a certain sadness involved in knowing that come early January 2014, there will be no more Blockbuster Nights.

Of course, before Blockbuster Video (later just Blockbuster) became the juggernaut it would be best known as for a good chunk of its existence, there were the local Mom ‘n Pop video stores. Recently, James “The Angry Video Game Nerd” Rolfe and Mike Matei recalled what these stores were like. I can think of no better summation than this video (though there may be some Not Safe For Work language in there, just as a warning. It’s been a while since I watched it through, so I don’t remember), so have a look for a bit of nostalgic education:

Additionally, BuzzFeed Yellow has a quicker summary of what the experience was like:

Both videos are fairly recent, and amazingly timely in light of this news.

As for smaller, locally-owned stores, I remember one particularly well, called “Sandra’s Fun Time Video”. In retrospect, the name sounds like it might lean towards the kinky side, but at about nine or ten years old, that was well beyond me. It was a small place, but rather well-stocked with new VHS tapes and– more importantly– video games. There were a couple of other video stores my parents would go to– or that I’d pester them to go to, because they had something Sandra’s didn’t– but for the most part, that was the place. I forget the exact rates, but the best deals were renting for a weekend on Friday, or the weekly “Dollar Night” on Tuesday (I think).

nestmntcover

The people at Sandra’s were cool. We’d occasionally get to take home some promotional materials (standees, posters, etc.) from releases that became less-than-recent, and they would also do certain favors for us. When Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was coming to the Nintendo Entertainment System, I just had to have it. And thanks to them, I was able to. I don’t remember why I went through them– I seem to recall hearing a rumor about the buttons being in that ridiculous configuration where B is Jump and A is attack, and that made me uneasy about dropping my own hard-earned money on the game. So I was able to rent it, and once I learned that whoever said that was simply wrong, I managed to order a copy.

I also remember that back before used game stores were a thing, they allowed my dad to sell some of our old games there. This was a decision I’d come to regret in time (miss you, Contra, Strider, and DuckTales), but in my youth, newer was better. As such, I didn’t think anything of it at the time, if it meant we’d be able to get new games. I don’t believe I’ve ever traded a game I didn’t have an extra copy of since, though.

Also, fun fact: My dad created his own guide to Platoon for those who would rent that merciless title.

However, things change with time, and eventually Blockbuster Video came to town. I’d seen ads on television, but never seen one in person– it was almost like the video store equivalent of having a Toys R Us open up in your town (Note: Toys R Us, at least back then, was purely a big-city thing. You’d not find the likes of it in the types of smaller towns I grew up in). It was big, it was bright, it was shiny, it was new– their grand opening even had spotlights! Spotlights, shining towards the heavens, like a big Hollywood premiere! And as it so happened with the timing, it also had something else. Something that Sandra’s didn’t have, and I don’t know if they ever got (we wound up moving before very long, so that’s why).

SNES-Mod1-Console-Set

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

This was a big deal to me, particularly being the Mario Maniac that I am/was (don’t forget how I responded to this commercial, after all). Unfortunately, my parents weren’t sold on getting one (yet), or even renting one. My jerkhole neighbors rented one, complete with my then-holy grail of Super Mario World, but I was only allowed to play it briefly, and not even on a new file– I had to start somewhere in the middle of Chocolate Island.

But here was this new store in town, and they had the Super NES– or “Super Nintendo,” as we typically called it– and they even had a TV set up to run Super Mario World. I think I got to play for the briefest of time before my parents basically had to drag me away– it went like this for a while.

After moving, it was a local Kmart with the Super NES and Super Mario World hooked up, and if I could get them to go there, my feet pretty much remained glued in place until it hurt to walk. But before that, I believe it was Blockbuster which first gave me my taste of Super Power.

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Doing something different, and breaking this up into smaller parts. Next time: The Blockbuster World Video Game Championships, GamePro, SEGA Saturn, and Virtual Boy.

For those who wish to read up on the full story of Blockbuster closing and the thoughts of others on the matter, please visit the following links:

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  • Zycrow

    Came here via Dino Drac. I think all of our generation will carry precious memories of this type of business, since many of us spent our formative years visiting and revisiting them. Here are some of the stores we’d go to in my childhood.

    1. Village Video – I mentioned this on the Dino Drac post. It closed early in my childhood but not before I rented “S.O.S. Dinobots,” the first ep of TF G1 I ever watched.

    2. Video Loft / Quik Foto – Too many memories to list here, since this was our main rental store. I once brought a NES cleaning kit out there and offered to clean all their games. (Being a home schooled kid, I had little better to do…) Also when they started selling their NES games, we got several, all of which are still in my collection, in plastic rental clamshells with the shop’s sticker.

    3. Sounds Easy Video – They had SNES and Genesis consoles hooked up to a big TV and they’d let you try out games before renting. I abused this system and got really pissy when they swapped out the SNES for a 3D0.

    4. Blockbuster – We moved down south in the late 90s and that was the first time I ever saw this place. We rented from them so often that we had the “gold” membership card (which I keep in my wallet to this day), and I once biked out there to get my Pokemon Snap pics developed.

    5. Hollywood Video – Seemed a bit classier than Blockbuster. When I first learned about anime I convinced my dad to let me rent some of the Neon Genesis Evangelion tapes from that place. He would always read the content warnings on the backs of the tapes to make sure I wasn’t poisoning my mind.

    I guess I’ve rambled on enough, but suffice it to say, I sorely miss these places. Thanks for your post. :)

    • http://www.nyteworks.net/ LBD “Nytetrayn”

      Hey, fellow Dino Draccer! (Dracker?) Thanks for responding! =)

      There were a few other video places I didn’t fit in here, since they didn’t really fit the narrative (but might have made the size more comparable to the other two parts, which I hope you’ll check out/enjoy). One was too early for me to remember well beyond typically renting either He-Man videos or Flight of the Navigator.

      Another I can’t remember the name of was sort of the “back-up” in that town when Sandra’s didn’t have something. They were the first to get Super Mario Bros. 3, and as far as I know, the only ones to carry SEGA Master Systems and games. I also got a number of my Topps scratch-off Nintendo trading cards and stickers there, too. I really liked their set-up.

      There was yet another whose name escapes me (and I hate that) which was the one we went to before finding Sandra’s. It was where we first rented NES games, and I checked out a number of cartoons there, including Flintstones Meet the Jetsons. It was also where I first saw this poster. I seem to also recall discovering that they had more risque fare not particularly well-hidden when I’d get bored waiting for my parents and would wander around.

      It was a favorite, for the above, and location: a plaza with a Walmart, a grocery whose magazine rack I liked, a great place to eat, and I think a Hallmark (when I was HUGE into Garfield, and so were they).

      Hollywood Video was good. I remember they had a neat display set up with Super NES and Genesis, maybe PlayStation? They often had games on there I didn’t see often — Home Alone 2 and Crash Test Dummies come to mind. Oh, and Goof Troop! I still want that game after playing it there. I remember they had a good number of WWF videos for me to rent, too.

      I also rented Donkey Kong Country 3 there when I was sick. Still never beat it.

      There was also a place up the street from where I lived whose selection was decent enough, and the location and prices made it a preferred choice, though they didn’t always get everything — particularly where games were concerned. But if they got one you wanted? Jackpot.

      Anyway, rambling is welcome! Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll drop back by. =)