The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News December 8, 2006

Community Keeps Video Store Afloat
Video Enthusiast: A stack of unstickered DVDs crowds the counter at Annable’s downtown campus video store.

This is the story of how a four-day Caribbean cruise — not to mention a broad-based community response — changed one guy’s perspective.

The guy in question is Chuck Annable, owner of Campus Video, which is the only movie rental business in Oberlin. In November, Annable announced his decision to close in May, after 12 years of management.

After the Review printed an article about it, Annable said, scores of people approached him, his staff and even members of his extended family, entreating him not to close.

“[That we said] we were closing is part of the reason we’re staying open,” said Annable. “A lot of people said things like, ‘you’re a cultural resource’ or ‘art resource,’ [and] ‘you can get these films you can’t get anywhere else in town [at Campus Video] and certainly more conveniently than in other places in town.’”

The other factor in Annable’s decision to remain open was a conference of independent video store owners held aboard a cruise ship in the Bahamas.

“These people convinced me [that] as long as you’re profitable, you ought to keep doing it,” he said.

And, although Annable has seen rentals drop off in recent years, he is still turning a modest profit. The conference reinvigorated his will to keep renting videos on Main Street and gave some new ideas for expanding his business.

For example, the rental period will go from three days to a full week. Annable also plans to collaborate with the Oberlin Public Library in helping them to expand their collection by selling them used videos from Campus Video.

The doubts that caused Annable to consider closing still linger. New challenges have arisen in the form of the minimum wage hike voted into law in November.

“It does come down to dollars at some point,” he said.

Annable, however, is hopeful he can stick it out for at least another year and a half, when his lease with his landlord will run out.

“At the time I bought [the store] they said there was five more years in video,” he said. “[Twelve years later] they’re still saying there’s five more years in video.”

Annable himself will be gradually backing out of the day-to-day management of the store, taking more hours off and working at his second part-time job at an art studio called Riverdog Studio about five miles west of town.

Twenty-two years is quite a long run for any Oberlin business, let alone 12 under a single owner.

“I can think of 20 businesses that have come and gone in the 12 years we’ve been open,” said Annable. He attributes Campus Video’s staying power to the unique experience of browsing the aisles, looking at the backs of the boxes, chatting with the staff — things Netflix still can’t deliver.

“We’re not quite obsolete yet,” he said.


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