It's around 8 p.m. on Wednesday, January 27, and there's a pretty decent crowd picking through the heavily discounted selection at Video Paradise in Chandler. The adults-only section is hidden behind a bright blue wall; two guys look around nervously before going in. Just around the corner is a staff member guiding a patron through all of the Resident Evil movie plots. They share a hug.
Before there was Redbox and before the days when we could stream movies into our homes and on our phones, there was the brick-and-mortar video rental store. Big names like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video were almost as ubiquitous then as Starbucks locations are today. Stopping by the store on a Friday evening to peruse the aisles for new releases was a time-honored tradition.
While the chain stores may have had greater name recognition in the Valley and beyond, one small store in Chandler outlasted them all. Until now, that is.
While virtually all rental stores have shuttered their doors as Netflix and the like have rendered them obsolete, Video Paradise remained a bastion of nostalgia and movie history, serving the community for 25 years with affordable rentals, knowledge, and service. Their closing is sad and truly signifies the end of an era, but the fact that they stayed open this long is truly a testament to the special place Video Paradise was.
As the store enters its final days, there's a palpable sadness in the air. It's scheduled to close on Friday, January 29, but owner Marshall Hawkins says the landlord has offered them a few more days to clear out the shelves. Walking around the shop T minus two days before closing, a few things come to mind:
Video stores have a specific smell. Will it die out with the store, or perhaps be absorbed into the store next door? Is this the last time the people here will ever walk through a video rental store? That might be a yes — though the Valley is home to one other standing video store, Superstar Video in Glendale.
Will all late fees be forgiven? The guy behind the counter says that they plan to charge credit cards on file if any movies are not returned before closing. If that doesn't work, accounts will be sent to collections. He smiles, clearly relishing in the karmic justice that only a video store employee can understand.
As for what will happen to the storefront once Video Paradise is gone, Hawkins says the landlord got an offer for the space that he couldn't refuse. "They got offered a 10-year lease from Dollar Tree," he says, then shrugs. Hawkins could have moved to a different location in the strip mall at Alma School and Warner, but the hassle of moving just didn't seem worth it as profits decline.
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Patrons tell Hawkins how they've been coming here since they were kids, and an older couple shares that they came in every Friday to choose a date night movie. They could have gone to Blockbuster (the last of which closed in Phoenix in early 2014), but they stayed loyal to Video Paradise. It wasn't just because of the reasonable prices and vast selection.
Stopping by the store was so much more than just an errand to pick up a couple movies to check out over the course of a week; it was an experience. The friendly staff not only knew their inventory inside and out, but were always happy to offer advice or just a chat about movies in general. That kind of service is what set Video Paradise apart from its competitors and is also what makes the store's closing so very sad. Scrolling through a list of movies on a computer or television screen is just not the same as walking through aisle after aisle of movies arranged by category, but as it is with most things, convenience has replaced the old way of doing things.
Video killed the radio star, and now streaming has killed the video store. But seriously, where will that smell go?
Video Paradise is located at 2050 North Alma School Rd. Hours on January 29 are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Call 480-345-0102 for more information.