September 14, 2010

Collegetown Video Store Closes After 20 Years

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The Collegetown Video Store abruptly ended its 20-year run this August — with no word yet on the next coming attraction for the store’s former location, 103 Dryden Rd.Collegetown Video’s closing is a close-up shot of the grim panorama facing video stores nationwide. According to a Contra Costa Times story last week, the number of rental stores has dropped by over 7,000 since 2003, a drop caused by “rough economic times coupled with new ways to deliver movies.”Yet store founder Ljubomir Stambuk ’91 attributed the store’s closing not only to new methods of watching movies created by the Internet — though he recognized this as a factor — but also to his absence.

Stambuk had been running his store from outside of Ithaca, but said that it was becoming “more and more difficult to manage the business from afar,” especially since he moved from New York City to North Carolina.

Stambuk said that at the store’s “official” opening in February 1991, the city’s then-mayor attended a party of over 100 people to welcome the store to the neighborhood.“We wanted to provide a place for kids to see all kinds of interesting movies that had never been heard of,” Stambuk said, citing the “large international sections and cult classics… people would see over and over”. When the store opened, Stambuk said, the building was “so run down that we had to paint the adjoining building.”  He said that the store got students from the architecture school to “develop the metal veneer” that still adorns 103 Dryden.He called this “futuristic-looking design of exterior” a “very modern and very new thing for Collegetown.”  Stambuk conveyed his belief that the store was always “for Cornell.”He noted that it was voted the “best video store” for Cornell students eight years in a row. He recalled having parties in the store’s back garden yard “that most people don’t know about,” remembering everything “fun and not fun” about the store.Stambuk also asserted that “there is still a market for niche stores that are responsive in a user-friendly way,” and that Collegetown can support a video store for the Cornell niche.However, not all agreed that the video store could survive in a world with Netflix and instant movie downloads on the Internet.George Downing, manager of the store from 2005-09, said that the brick-and-mortar video stores — including Collegetown Video Store — could “probably not” survive today.  Downing added that “college students have changed in the way they do things …  people don’t want to go out into marketplace anymore,” saying that this was a “trend I saw when I was there.” President of the Cornell Film Club Philip Wu ’12 said that the video store’s business model “can’t keep up with the way the world works.”“Everything’s shifting to buying things digitally … [it’s] easier to get things online through torrent or DC++,” Wu said.Former customer Clay Munnings ‘11 agreed with the sentiments of Downing and Wu, noting that the “general opinion” of the Collegetown store was that it was “really overpriced.”Still, Stambuk and others hope the store can be re-launched in another vein in Collegetown.John Errico grad said that there is “some hope Collegetown Video will return in another form,” such as being reopened by Student Agencies — the organization which acquired TakeNote and Housing Solutions.Errico, the current manager of Housing Solutions, said that during the video store’s closing “a lot of people came by and said they would miss [it].” Errico called the store a “Cornell tradition.” “I was always surprised by the number of people who would come into Collegetown Video at odd hours of the day and hang out with friends,” Errico said.Juan Clar ’11, another former customer, voiced his support for the store. “Although it’s really convenient to have the Internet and Netflix, it’s really sad to lose,” Clar said.There is a “certain feeling in going to video stores and seeing covers, having people tell you what’s good and bad,” that the Internet can’t provide, Clar said.John O’Connor, who owns the property, is away on vacation and did not respond to an email Tuesday night.At 103 Dryden, the location of the former store, there are scattered power tools inside, but no sign of what is to come beneath the building’s gray facade.“The outpouring of good wishes, dismay [at the closing] was so immense that I’m personally very sad,” Stambuk said.

Original Author: Jeff Stein