Prospective video renters in Adams Morgan may find themselves staring down Blockbuster’s blue-and-khaki-clad employees more regularly. After almost 20 years of service to the District, 18th Street Video, né Video Americain, has closed.
“We have no bitterness,” says Barry Solan, the store’s co-owner. A partner in numerous independent rental locations along the East Coast, Solan says he’s happy his store lasted as long as it did. “It’s like the Hanukkah story—the oil that was only supposed to last for one night lasted for eight,” he says.
“We’re not great businessmen.…We’re part of communities,” said Mike Bradley, Solan’s partner. Bradley is reluctant to engage to in the “finger-wagging” that he feels abounds whenever one of his stores goes under. “We’re like the socialist republic of Video Americain.”
Solan and Bradley point to numerous factors in 18th Street’s demise. Not only has the rise of Netflix made the rental market tight even for goliaths like Blockbuster, they say, but Internet and video-game culture has drawn people away from film. Then there’s that outdoor DVD kiosk across the street. And the difficulty of cultivating customer loyalty in a notoriously transient neighborhood didn’t help either.
“I’ll see people tonight who were in their mommies’ tummies when they first came in,” said Solan, speaking by phone from a store in Baltimore. “Not in D.C.”
Perhaps he’ll have better luck in Collingswood, N.J., which is where the store’s inventory is being sent. “It’s a gentrifying community with a gay and lesbian population,” Solan says. “That’s our audience.”