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Mauldin Family Video taps into nostalgia

November 26, 2018

MAULDIN, S.C. (AP) — At 10:50 a.m. on a crisp November morning, 10 minutes before the Family Video store was scheduled to open, Donna DuPage was waiting patiently in the parking lot with her daughter, Karen Crum. It was a Tuesday — her regular movie rental day.

“This is the only place close by that you can rent them,” said DuPage, an Illinois native and Fountain Inn resident who makes the 20-mile round trip weekly with her daughter. “I get a lot of movies I’ve seen before, just to watch them again.

“I enjoy a good movie. I used to watch ’em with my kids, and now with my grandkids and great-grandkids,” said DuPage.

She normally gets four movies at a time, sometimes taking advantage of 10-for-$10 sales, and always enjoys browsing the aisles — something that makes renting at a store more interesting than searching for movies on the internet or at a Redbox outlet.

DuPage, 85, was relieved to learn a Greenville News photographer in the parking lot was there for a story about Family Video’s success.

“Most of the video stores are gone. When I saw people here with a camera, I thought maybe this one was getting ready to close,” DuPage said. “I don’t want that to happen.”

That reaction doesn’t surprise Karen Putnam, who manages the Family Video stores in Mauldin and Laurens.

“We get that often. The customers have seen so many other stores close . . . and we’re the last one standing, so it’s normal for them to think about it. But we have no intention of closing,” she said.

The seven Family Video outlets in South Carolina, which include a store in Anderson and Spartanburg, are part of a chain that celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.

For many visitors, the store’s familiar layout brings back childhood memories. The display shelves are designed to make browsing easy and fast for the regulars, but they also inspire nostalgia among new shoppers, Putnam said.

“Even today, we had someone come in for the first time who said he couldn’t believe that he had found a video rental store, and that it looked just the way he remembered them looking when he was young,” she said.

Among the regulars, shopping habits tend to vary by age. Younger shoppers, who often are seeking Blue-ray products, like the store because it has greater selection and availability than Redbox; older customers, many of them former Blockbuster clients, lean more toward DVDs. Both groups like to browse.

“Nostalgia is a very powerful incentive,” said Mauldin assistant manager Howard Quantanilla, a 33-year-old movie buff who took several film courses as a student at the University of South Carolina. “They all understand the convenience of shopping on the internet, but the browsing is an appealing part.”

That’s the case for Starr residents Zenas and Oliver Todd, who like to peruse the movie rental selections at the Anderson store.

For Oliver, an elementary-school student, walking along the shelves containing thousands of movie boxes is a subtle memory-making exercise. For Zenas, his father, it’s an opportunity to rekindle his own childhood memories of renting movies.

“I started coming here to get movies for the boys. We have fun looking for movies together. And I like shopping here. I’d rather be able to look around, look at the movies in person,” Zenas Todd said.

“It’s a good deal; you can’t beat the prices on the kids movies,” Todd added.

The mix of family shopping and nostalgia are key ingredients in the survival of the Family Video store on Pearman Dairy Road, which is thriving at a time when renting at a Redbox or streaming via an internet service are often more convenient.

“There’s a nostalgia factor to being in a video store,” Werner said. “Ninety percent of those who come in the for the first time experience that. There are not many ways to get that feeling, and it takes them back to childhood in some cases, or to a time as parents they brought young kids in to rent a video.

“A lot of customers tell me about memories of going to a video store on Friday night, renting some movies and taking them home for the weekend. Those are warm memories,” Werner said.

“They say, ‘I didn’t know you still existed, and I’m happy you’re still here,’” he added. “We get that all the time.”

The Anderson store is the southernmost in a chain of video stores that opened for business in 1979, the early years of the video rental industry. It was overshadowed during the 1980s by Blockbuster, which has since closed its doors throughout the country.

Some customers, like Mike Dunn of Anderson, encourage others to shop at the store.

“I want to keep it going. It’s a one-of-a-kind place,” Dunn said as he returned movies and rented new ones on a weekday.

The Anderson store celebrated its 10th anniversary in February and Werner said business remains steady.

“I’ve been here so long, I see some children that came with parents when we opened and they (now) have their own accounts. It’s a weird thing to deal with, because I feel like I watched some of them grow up,” Werner said. “We’ve been an established part of people’s lives for so long, some are in college that came here when they were in elementary school.”

Werner, a Westside High graduate who took radio/television courses at Tri-County Tech, said movies “have always been a big passion for me.”

The shelves at the Anderson and Mauldin stores get fresh additions each Tuesday, when 20-30 new movies are released for home video.

“That keeps the industry going,” Werner said. “People like taking them home a few days, even if they’ve already seen the movie. People enjoy both. That’s what skeptics who thought we’d go away didn’t realize.”

“Picking out a good movie and taking it home to watch it can change a bad day into a good one,” he added. “Everything about our store makes the world better. That makes it a fun place to work and to visit.”

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Information from: The Greenville News, http://www.greenvillenews.com

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