After 33 Years, Potomac Video Presses 'stop' Button On Business (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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After 33 Years, Potomac Video Presses 'Stop' Button On Business

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
We turn now from live entertainment to entertainment of the small screen variety. In this age of on demand movies, streaming services and Netflix, you tend to see fewer and fewer video stores. But, here in D.C., one video store held on longer than most. I say held on, past tense, because after 33 years of business, Potomac Video is finally shutting its doors. And as special correspondent, Kavitha Cardoza tells us, customers say they'll miss more than just the movies.

MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

00:00:36
Tad Tharpe is gingerly balancing dozens of DVD and VHS tapes as he gets to the register at Northwest D.C.'s Potomac Video.

MR. TAD THARPE

00:00:45
I'm buying them all. Greatest classics. You can't even get these anymore on any website. These are mostly out of print and they're great.

CARDOZA

00:00:50
Potomac Video has been a neighborhood institution in D.C.'s Chevy Chase Circle for more than 30 years. But now the store is closing down and everything is for sale. Tharpe says it's a huge loss.

THARPE

00:01:04
One of the greatest things about growing up was always going to the video store with your parents to pick out a movie. It was part of the American experience. Now, younger people won't be able to do that.

MR. JOHN FRANCKE

00:01:11
There's a stage play version of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN

00:01:13
Oh, I know.

FRANCKE

00:01:13
And we had three until about two days ago. And I think they all got scooped up.

MAN

00:01:17
I'm sure they have.

CARDOZA

00:01:18
John Francke bought movies for all these stores, at one point spending more than a million dollars a year.

FRANCKE

00:01:24
At our peak, we had 22 stores in three different states and the District.

CARDOZA

00:01:28
This store carried approximately 60,000 titles and was considered a treasure, because you could find everything from the latest blockbuster to obscure documentaries to niche foreign films.

FRANCKE

00:01:39
All our foreign titles are divided up by country or language. If someone was really into Israeli film, they could go there and just work their way through, you know, 300 Israeli films. One of our last sections we added was called "Great Plays." And it was all the filmed adaptations of Ibsen and, well, we actually -- we already had a Shakespeare section. But all the great plays that you can think of, and it was a -- sometimes, we'd have four or five different versions of the same play. And that was a very popular section.

CARDOZA

00:02:07
Bill Flanders is next in line. He says he's been coming here for what seems a lifetime, and has rented lots of movies.

MR. BILL FLANDERS

00:02:14
Hundreds. Seriously, hundreds. There aren't many places like this. In fact, there's none left in the District. So, it means that I won't be able to come up and look for something for my wife and myself some night. I've lost something.

CARDOZA

00:02:29
That sense of loss is seemingly universal here. Carrie Armstrong, another customer, says she's sad the video store is going out of business, because it's such an important part of the neighborhood.

MS. CARRIE ARMSTRONG

00:02:39
Everyone's shut in their house looking at a computer. It's nice to be able to go to a store where you can put your hands on something and talk to people and get advice. It's sort of social.

CARDOZA

00:02:49
Eleanor Bedford and her son Ben are regulars.

MS. ELEANOR BEDFORD

00:02:52
We have our pizza movie night every Friday.

CARDOZA

00:02:55
They have to find a new ritual now. Ben chooses among Scooby Doo titles stacked higher than him.

MR. BEN BEDFORD

00:03:00
I got a -- it was one of the original Scooby Doo capers.

BEDFORD

00:03:05
My son stared hyper ventilating when he heard the news that his favorite video store was going out of business.

CARDOZA

00:03:11
John Francke looks stoic as he rings up Eleanor Bedford and other customers and sees all the movies he's bought over the years leave the store forever. He says it's hard to let go of films he may never see again.

FRANCKE

00:03:23
They all have to go, but every once in a while, I see one that leaves and I was like, I may never see that movie again. "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis." Extremely rare DVD.

CARDOZA

00:03:33
But Francke understands that people like the ease of watching a movie online. He himself has a subscription to Amazon Prime, and his girlfriend has a Netflix account. I'm Kavitha Cardoza.

SHEIR

00:03:48
Want one last glance at Potomac Video? We have a gallery of photos on our website, metroconnection.org. And tell us, do you have special memories of Potomac Video, or any other neighborhood video store? Send an email to metro@wamu.org. And special thanks to Andrew Katz-Moses who contributed to this report.
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