After 30 years in business, the Video Fan needed a new strategy.
Manager Andrew Blossom and owner Doug McDonald knew the 403 Strawberry St. store, one of only a few video rental stores still operating across the country, had a short future ahead of it through renting out films alone.
“This is not a business that makes a lot of money, and it’s not a business that can make enough money to sustain itself,” Blossom said. “But it didn’t seem like something that should fold up and go away.”
Blossom and McDonald had been considering transforming Video Fan into a nonprofit entity for several months. But earlier this year they realized the urgency of the situation: Time and money had run out. So they turned to the community, and popular crowdfunding website Kickstarter, for help.
On Friday, Video Fan’s Kickstarter campaign Video Fan Forever, exceeded its $35,000 goal by $2,471. The funds will allow the store to remain open, to potentially stay in its original location, and to pursue classification as a nonprofit.
Around 800 donors gave to the cause, most offering between $10 and $100, while a few gave around $500.
Of the money raised, $30,000 is going toward renewing the store’s one-year lease at $2,500 a month. McDonald, who is also the store’s landlord, had listed the property for lease with Divaris Real Estate.
As of Monday, Blossom was in the process of contacting the leasing agent to inform them of Video Fan’s intentions.
The rest of the money will go toward cleaning up the interior of the store, making more space, replacing lost or damaged products and producing a documentary about Video Fan and its history.
And, most importantly for Blossom, the money gives the store the time and resources it needs to pursue a nonprofit status and stay open for more than an extra year. Its main ammunition in making its case to become a nonprofit are the 40,000 video titles that Blossom wants to continue to make available.
“We feel that we have this collection that has been amassed in this community, by members of this community, for nearly 30 years,” Blossom said. “We want to protect that and enhance it, but we can’t do that just by renting new releases.”
The goal is to allow the store to retain its seven current employees, start offering rentals for longer periods of time, and to offer more public movie showings throughout the city.
“It’s not only keeping the lights on here and keeping it for the community, but also changing what this place is without losing its essence,” Blossom said. “It gives us the ability to say, ‘Look, this really is an archive and we want to protect it.’”
A number of Video Fan’s customers are educators who rent films for their classrooms, often out of their own pockets. One of the first goals of the nonprofit is to work with school administrations to allow greater access to the film collection.
Blossom plans to expand his fundraising efforts as well. He said instead of relying solely on community donations, he plans to apply for grants and solicit larger donations in the future. He said he doesn’t know how much will need to be raised annually to keep the store in business.
But he is starting the effort now, with an event Saturday called Video Fan Riot at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. With five local bands performing, the store will auction off the leftover prizes from the Kickstarter campaign, with all donations going toward the nonprofit.
The Video Fan started in 1986. Blossom said the store will hopefully follow the lead of another store, Scarecrow Video in Seattle that successfully transformed into a nonprofit earlier this year.