Renting nostalgia

With video rental chains closed, Classic Video offers a local novelty experience

Classic Video is tucked away downtown on King St. and recently celebrated its 26th anniversary.
Image by: Chloe Sobel
Classic Video is tucked away downtown on King St. and recently celebrated its 26th anniversary.

The first time I walked in to Classic Video, I was overwhelmed.

I hadn’t been to a movie rental store since the Blockbuster near my house had closed down and I wasn’t used to such a large selection.

Jaela Baxter, ConEd ’14, who has worked at Classic Video since high school, said that the store has “around 50,000 discs and maybe 40,000 titles” available to rent.

Classic Video lies off the beaten track for many Queen’s students. It’s not on the main stretch of Princess St., instead lying just off King St. — closer to the water than many campus-centred students go. Nestled between the Four Points hotel and the Kingston Brewing Company, it’s easy to miss.

The store doesn’t seem large at first glance. That’s before you realize that there’s a basement with floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with DVDs and Blu-Rays.

The main floor also makes use of space with shelving units lining the walls and long wooden troughs with drawers filled with movies. Large chalkboards and posters with pictures of DVD covers announce upcoming releases. The big name blockbusters, all shorter-term rentals, are along the same wall.

The expanse of choice at my fingertips wasn’t the only thing that set Classic Video apart from other generic movie rental stores — Classic Video is a local business that has been a destination for Kingstonians for over two decades. The store celebrated its 26th anniversary in November.

According to Baxter, people come from outside of Kingston to visit the store.

“I’ve signed up people for memberships from Amherstview, Odessa, Sydenham, even Napanee,” she told the Journal via email.

The store also gets a lot of traffic from the limestone city itself.

“We get a good mix of students and local Kingstonians — there are definitely a lot of grad students that I’ve noticed, but also lots of high school students and people who live in the downtown come in a lot too,” Baxter said.

She said her favourite part of the job is being able to interact with the customers in a more personal way than a generic store would.

“I love that I don’t work for a corporation, the staff are able to do things like cut late fees or offer exchanges without having to fuss around for a manager,” she said.

Baxter said that one of the benefits of being a local and more personal business is that they can try and stock a specific TV show or a movie that someone wants to rent. She likes the more personable and flexible atmosphere that a local business can create.

“People who come in are almost always friendly and happy to chat about stuff and super tolerant if we’re having a busy day and there’s a line to the door.”

Andrew Colenbrander, ArtSci ’14, a frequent customer at Classic Video, agrees.

“It’s nice to get out of the house. I spend a lot of time just sitting on the internet; but yeah the human interaction is good for sure. You can just talk to people about movies, I find that’s fun,” he said.

For Colenbrander, it’s not just the employees that add to the experience, but the customers that come in as well. He said he often sees both students and locals while on his weekly trips to rent movies.

“I think there are a lot of places in Kingston where it’s either one or the other, you see students there or you see locals, and the customer loyalty brings both together in Classic Video,” he said.

Part of the charm of Classic Video is in the name: it’s rare in this age of Netflix and internet downloads to watch rented movies and it’s become a classic, nostalgic experience.

Colenbrander said he decided last year to start watching more movies, and made his trips to Classic Video weekly.

“There’s a certain charm to having the physical copies in front of you instead of scrolling down a list. You’re flipping through stuff, you can pick it up and look at the sleeve. I mean, that’s kind of novelty at a certain point, but I do like that,” Colenbrander said.

Colenbrander also said that Classic Video often stocks movies from specific directors, which is useful when he goes in without a clear idea of what to rent.

“A lot of the time when I’m going there and renting stuff, [the employees will] say ‘Oh yeah, you like this, I also like other stuff from this director or other stuff from this genre,’ and a few times I’ve just rented movies blind,” he said.

— With files from Katie Grandin


Classic Video, Film, Local business

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