feeling nostalgic for independent video rental stores

Estimated reading time is 2 minutes.

SIX SMALL INDEPENDENT VIDEO RENTAL STORES could be found within two miles of our apartment in Bellevue, Washington. While each store carried the requisite hits to pay the rent, each also had unique titles that reflected the tastes of the owners. A couple even had small rooms in the back where little kids weren’t allowed.

And the people who ran the stores not only knew their inventory, they knew movies. This was back in the pre-internet ’90s. The epidemic that wiped them all out was the Blockbuster virus, which many people who were prone to believing in “conspiracy theories” believed was created—“cooked up” was the term they used—in laboratories in the Houston, Texas, area. Blockbusteritis spread slowly at first and, like most epidemics, eventually mushroomed until it was a ubiquitous presence in the US.

In hindsight, it feels like the little shops all closed overnight, but, of course, the owners hung on and lingered for a while, watching their customers dwindle, choosing to rent movies in blue-on-white plastic boxes. Eventually, the six locals shops were down to just one. My favorite store was the closest—a few hundred yards from my apartment. Unfortunately, it was also directly across the street from the newest Blockbuster.

When it closed, the owner called me and asked me to stop by. I got hugs from her and her staff. Then they gave me a parting gift: all six of the VHS tapes of the “Gerald McBoing Boing Presents” collections of UPA cartoons from the ’50s.


Video rental stores: front cover of box for VHS tape of Gerald McBoing Boing Presents the Silly Twirliger Twins and Their Funny Friends.
In 1956, CBS presented the Gerald McBoing-Boing Show at 5:30-6:00 PM on Sunday evenings. Gerald hosted several sections, including gleeful songs and dances by the Twirliger Twins.

Independent video rental stores

Young folk today will never know what they are missing by not having personal interaction with other customers, aficionados, and collectors (often “idiosyncratic” characters that their social training and common sense would warn them to avoid otherwise) that previous generations enjoyed and, alas, took for granted.

I still miss those little video stores. Fortunately, I still have my Gerald McBoing Boing videos . . .


Video rental stores: cel from the first Gerald McBoing Boing 7-minute cartoon from 1950.

FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page was slightly cropped from this image, which is a finished animation cel from Gerald McBoing Boing (1950). I “cleaned up” the top image (mostly painting over the rough spots in the cranberry-colored background) but left the flaws in the larger image above untouched.



3 thoughts on “feeling nostalgic for independent video rental stores”

  1. When my stepson was about 16, he discovered my collection of 8-tracks. Then he discovered the blank ones and the recorder, and a combination console/car player. Needless to say, he installed the player in his car and began recording his CDs onto tape. 

    The last time I saw my longtime chiropractor (who was, unfortunately, one of the first Covid victims in my area), he produced a roll of aluminum splicing tape and gave it to me. 

    Everybody loves a nut.


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