Charles Street Family Video does well in recession

Charles Street Family Video does well in recession

By Mandy Toomey

By Mandy Toomey

Freelance writer

Standing amidst scaffolding and discarded pieces of drywall and lumber, the projected opening date of two weeks for the new video store on Charles Street seems a little far- fetched.

Around a makeshift table of cardboard and insulation, employee hopefuls take an hour-long aptitude test, followed by a two-part interview process. On Thursday, Jan. 17, Family Video was conducting interviews trying to tie up loose ends in preparation for the store opening on Jan. 31.

In the wake of the depressing recession, few businesses are thinking of building or even expanding; rather, the general attitude is staying afloat. Family Video, a newcomer to the Rockford area, views the economic slump differently.

“We do well in a good economy, but we do better in a worse economy because we are offering low-cost entertainment. Videos are a cheap alternative to the movie theater or other things that families do,” said Brian Anderson, Family Video’s Rockford store manager. “We do what we do and don’t concern ourselves with the competition; we let the customers decide,” he continued.

In fact, in the past year Family Video has opened approximately 40 stores in the Midwest including Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.

The small family-owned business has come a long way since its beginnings in the ’70s. The store started out in Springfield, Ill. as an extension of Midstates Appliance and Supply Company. The appliance store sold VCRs and videotapes.

Instead of selling the videos, Charles Hoogland, owner of the store, got the idea to rent the videos. The video portion of the store was called The Video Movie Club, and it was one of the first video rental stores in the country. Family Video, still owned today by Hoogland along with his two sons, is the largest privately-owned video rental chain in the country.

The company has survived and even thrived largely due to a business idea which has all but been lost in today’s society. “We are the last of the true independent stores. We can compete with Blockbuster and Hollywood Video by giving great customer service along with low prices,” said Tim Reynolds, a regional manager at Family Video.

Looking around at potential employees, Reynolds explained the company’s approach to customer service. “We maintain a small business appeal by allowing employees to treat the business as their own. We give them the power to solve problems and think for themselves,” Reynolds said.

Due to the consolidation of video rental places, “ma and pa” video stores have a difficult time competing with the likes of Hollywood and Blockbuster, Reynolds explained. “Our stores are large enough, and we choose locations and prices that can compete with a national video store chain.”

Located on Charles Street just west of East High School, the store is nestled in a neighborhood with many families. “It will be a neighborhood store,” Reynolds said.

The families in the area are looking forward to the convenience of a new video store nearby.

“Right now we buy a lot of movies, but I know that will change with the video store being right here,” said Martina Nania, resident of the neighborhood. “It will be handier because we live right here.”

Other businesses in the area that have felt the economic crunch are also welcoming the new store. Mirek Podczaski, owner of the Polish Deli, just across the street from the incoming video store, said, “The video store will bring people to the area, and we hope it will help us also. The more traffic the better.”

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