Monday, May 10, 2010


Behind the coffee shop exterior and beneath the pastel yellow awning lives a lifetime of BJ-C memory. Before Netflix and Blockbuster completely wiped out the ol' Ma & Pa video stores, I lived in 7th Street Video Rentals. Only two blocks from my house, 7th Street Video Rentals was where I first discovered my love of cinema.

The family that owned the shop were some of the nicest people in the entire world. I could remember walking up to the desk, putting down a handful of change, batting my big brown eyes, and hoping that I had enough to bring something home. I wouldn't discover until years later that he barely made me pay anytime. He'd take my $2.83 and let me rent up to 5 videos, just because he liked me so much.

One weekend, I had sat through House on Haunted Hill (1999) on a camping trip. I was in such a hurry to find out as much as I could about the original film that I left the trip early to Ask Jeeves it. After discovering that yes, Chris Kattan WAS in a horror film, I was introduced to Vincent Price. I had no idea who this man with the Boris Badinov moustache was, so I printed out a picture of him to take to 7th Street Video. I rode my Huffy down the two blocks, parked it out front like always, and marched right up to the desk. I slapped down the picture (my eyes barely over the top of the counter) and said "Do you have anything with Vincent Price in it?" The store owner giggled with his heavy Greek accent and replied, "Normally I wouldn't let someone your age watch a film with him, but you've never been like most kids your age." He grabbed my hand and walked me towards the back room. Most video store back rooms contained cases of naked women, but this store showcased films of zombies, monsters, and masked murderers. I stared in awe of all the screaming women and crazed madmen. He took down 7 films and said "this should give you your fix". I stared at him with my jaw dropped and barely managed to squeak out "how much?". He just laughed and said, "No charge. Just make sure you tell me what you think." I bungee strapped my black movie cases to the back of my Huffy and pedaled as hard as I could home. I ran in my house and kicked out my sister watching cartoons and popped in Thirteen Ghosts. I never left the couch until I finished all 7 of the films. I would even hold using the bathroom until the film was over and required a rewind.

As I grew older, my tastes expanded and he was willing to introduce me to Argento, Fulci, and anyone else he thought would give me nightmares for weeks. If he didn't have a stack of videos ready for me, he'd always create an elaborate distraction so I could slip into the "back room". His older son (who I idolized and WORSHIPED) thought I was the coolest little kid and would often sneak me up to the apartment to watch movies with me. My mom even hired him as a babysitter on occasion so he'd actually get paid for hanging out with a seven year old. He was seriously the big brother I never had, and I owe my obsession with Zom-Com's to him. The first time I ever saw Return of the Living Dead was sitting on their couch turning 8 shades of red when Trash got naked.

When I was around 11, the store started to take a hit from the Blockbusters and Hollywood Videos that were popping up around the town. I can honestly say that I cried when the FOR SALE sign showed up in the window. It was then that I was given one of my most memorable experiences. The owner's wife snuck me behind the counter and sent me to the horror section of the actual rentals. There were rows and rows of black boxes with numbers on the outside. She looked at me and said "Pick 5". The videos were all done in number order, and there was no way for me to know what I was picking before I grabbed them. The feeling I had as I made my selections was indescribable and a feeling that has yet been matched.

I pass the ol' 7th Street Video Rental building every day. I'd be lying if I said my heart didn't break a little every time I saw the advertisements for discount coffee. I owe my childhood and my "career" to that store. Mr. and Mrs. Sarantakis, if you're reading this...thank-you.

6 comment(s):

B-Sol said...

Awesome. I had a very similar store around the corner from me, which was ironically right next to a movie theater. Both are now gone.

Thanks for sharing a bit of the making of BJ-C!

The Mike said...

Really great post. There are a pair of hometown video stores I dearly miss, and I worked at (and considered buying) one of them shortly before it closed down. Then when I came to my new town I found and loved one, even choosing an apartment from which I could walk to it as needed, only to see it close abruptly last fall.

My reminiscing aside, I'm glad that these people were there to lead you in the right direction. Keep it up!

Christine Hadden said...

Great stuff there. Puts a tear in the eye when you think abut how many of these places have gone by the wayside.
So...I'm dying to know what five movies you ended up with :o)

Unknown said...

This is a lovely post. I'm surprised I missed it till just now. Good stuff!

the Trash Man said...

I drive past my old mom'n'pop video store every day on the way to work and it kills me.


Best post EVER.

Unknown said...

The decline of Mom and Pop stores and small theatres as a whole is a sad commentary on our society. We want it all and we want it now. We have no patience for one another. Everything is faster, more mechanized, and less satisfactory.

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