Don’t watch enough TV or movies to warrant paying for a Netflix account? Or maybe your Internet connection isn’t quite fast enough for it anyway? Feeling nostalgic for the old days when you could drive to a video store and browse the aisles of colorful box art and select a movie to rent for the night? Want to help support a local business that’s been in our area for over 30 years? Then head on up to Eynon and look for the big yellow sign guiding you to your last video store.
I grew up during the introduction and subsequent explosion of home video rentals in the 1980s. Doctor Dragon’s, Montage Video, Cherry’s Bookstore, and Convenient Food Mart all rented movies to me and the other residents of Old Forge back in the day. They were all eventually pushed out of existence by the arrival of Blockbuster Video.
Contrary to what you might think, retail video rental is not dead.
I was a loyal Blockbuster customer for years, always remembering to be kind and rewind. I got to share the joy of making the trip to the video store with my kids for a few years until the signs were hung up announcing the closing of our local Clarks Summit store. Decreased sales brought about by the introduction of RedBox, NetFlix, Hulu, and the like were the main culprit. So when our Blockbuster shut its doors last year, my kids and I lost something we loved and I had to look elsewhere for the same experience.
Contrary to what you might think, retail video rental is not dead. Family Video, based out of Glenview, a Chicago suburb, has been around since 1978, and currently operates more than 775 stores in 19 states and Canada. The closest one to us, however, is in Elmira, New York. But you don’t have to drive two hours to rent a movie, because we have the Reel Deal close to home, up on Route 6.
Ruth and Elias Forin have been running Reel Deal since its inception in the early 1980s. They’ve hopped around from location to location over the years, the latest being 160 Scranton Carbondale Highway. When I found the place, I signed up for a membership and was surprised to learn that they still had me in their computer from the last time I rented from them . . . in February of 1999.
Walking in, you’ll notice they’re not just a video rental store, as they sell furniture, jewelry, and other odds and ends. But what you’re looking for is just to the right as soon as you walk in. Walls and racks of DVDs to browse through, both by category and by popular actor/actress. A “New Releases” wall that is kept extremely up to date, sometimes holding movies that are still days away from release in stores. You can even check out both “Elias’ Picks” and “Ruth’s Picks” if you just can’t decide. They have a rack of previously viewed DVDs for sale if you want to keep the magic for more than a night or two. They also offer an email service by which they’ll fill you in on next week’s new arrivals.
Walking in I get the feeling I had when I was a kid, and I hope my children have a similar sense of that magic from so long ago. But they’re not too old fashioned up at Reel Deal . . . if you’re looking for VHS rentals, you’re sadly out of luck.