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It was a nightmare for Crystal Rodriguez, deciding to liquidate thousands of movie titles and close the video store she and her mother Patty had run for the last six years. The store, for the two women who loved movies and loved people, was the fruition of their dreams.
But, Rodriguez said, times were getting harder. DVDs can cost almost as much to rent as they do to buy. Driving to a store to rent and return is less convenient than having NetFlix or redbox deliver movies to subscribers. Video stores used to have a one-week jump on retailers, but no longer – now movies come to the rental store the same day they are available in stores.
So, Friday afternoon, Pick A Flick employee Milton Patterson, Patty's best friend and co-worker for more than a decade, climbed the ladder to change the marquee for the last time. It now reads, “Liquidating all DVD and VHS'S.”
Patterson and Patty Rodriguez had met while working in video stores together. They worked together at the old Pick A Flick in Williston, which was located in the old Winn-Dixie plaza north of the triangle on State Road 121. Patty ran the Pick A Flick there for 10 years, then worked as a supervisor in a chemical plant for a while. A few years later, Patty and Crystal were driving through Bronson and passed the video store there.
“I wonder if that store is for sale,” Patty wondered.
She and Crystal went inside to see. It was, so they bought it.
“My mom had always wanted to own a video store,” said Crystal.
Patterson and Rodriguez and her mother used to sit in the store by the hour, talking to customers and recommending movies. Pick A Flick carried the latest first-run shows, like “Body of Lies,” as well as oddball and underground titles like “Bubba Ho-Tep.” Regulars looked forward to their advice, knowing that Patty and Milton both had an encyclopedic knowledge of films.
Patty expanded the inventory right away.
“There were fewer than 200 DVDs here when she bought it,” Patterson said.
“Now there are more like 10,000.”
For its size and location, the depth and range of inventory in the store was astonishing.
But in the last several months, things hadn't gone as well. Patty had a stroke a few months ago, Crystal said, and the store, which had been self-supporting almost since the beginning, wasn't any more.
“This store has always paid for itself, but now it's not,” she said.
“It doesn't make sense to keep staying open.”
Not that she hasn't tried. When the store started losing money, Crystal took a job to supplement the store revenues. The side job now earns more than the store, she says. The reasons for the store's slide are many.
The biggest problem is the licensing cost for the DVDs, which costs the store at least twice what consumers pay for new DVDs at retail, plus exorbitant shipping.
“You can't just buy a DVD at Wal-Mart and rent it out,” Crystal said.
Distributors used to give stores good premiums too, like hats, t-shirts, posters and other novelties that could be resold, Patterson said. Now stores are lucky to even get posters.
The biggest problem is that, with the change in media price structures, consumers don't seem to value video rental the way they used to, Crystal said.
“When my mom took the store over, she wrote off hundreds of dollars in late fees,” she recalled.
“She could have collected those, but she wrote them off to help drive business.”
Customers appreciated it and responded loyally back then. No longer. Crystal says more and more people have stopped bringing movies back at all.
“I have a whole empty shelf of movies that were stolen,” she said.
“Collections aren't worth it, with the court costs.”
So she's getting out.
“I'm glad I'm pulling out before I lose everything everything,” Crystal said.
“But I hated to do it.”
Pick A Flick will be open Monday – Thursday 5-8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 2-8 p.m. until its stock is liquidated.