Larsen’s video cel­e­brates 30 years.

Serve Daily - - NEWS - By Karen Wil­loughby for Serve Daily

SPRINGVILLE – Leon Larsen says he has no idea why peo­ple keep com­ing to Larsen Video, 30 years after it opened in October 1987.

Though not as busy as it was in the early years of the video in­dus­try, he still sees a steady stream of cus­tomers Tues­days through Satur­days.

“I’ll tell you what they tell me,” Larsen told Serve Daily, re­fer­ring to his cus­tomers. “They like to look at all the movies. They like to talk with some­one about them. And they like a small store more than Red­box.”

Larsen has 8,500 ti­tles and con­tin­ues each month buy­ing new ones. He gets them the day they are re­leased to the pub­lic, which is about a month be­fore Red­box gets them, he added.

In­cluded in the store’s of­fer­ings are VHS tapes as well as DVD and Blu-Ray videos. Some date to the store’s open­ing.

“In 1987 it was video­tapes,” Larsen said as he wan­dered through the store lo­cated at 25 N. Main, at the in­ter­sec­tion of Hwy 89/State Street. “Most kids un­der 40 don’t own VCRs any­more.”

He rented movies then for $2.58/day, when “The av­er­age cost then of a movie was $89.95. Yeah. The Lost Boys. That was one that was $89.95. Pollyanna was $79; all the Dis­ney movies were that much. That was good for us. Peo­ple weren’t buy­ing movies then.”

He rents movies now for the same price as he did back then, in part be­cause he doesn’t have the over­head he did 30 years ago. The store is paid for. The cost of videos has come down. He doesn’t have the num­ber of em­ploy­ees he used to.

“We used to have eight em­ploy­ees here, Fri­days and Satur­days,” Larsen said. Now the store closes early those two nights.

The movies at Larsen’s are two-for-thep­rice-of-one Mon­days through Fri­days, and three-for-the-price-of-one on Satur­days, be­cause the store is closed Sun­days and Mon­days. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tues­days through Thurs­days, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fri­days and Satur­days.

He doesn’t buy used videos, but on oc­ca­sion he sells ex­tra copies and slow-movers. He buys new re­leases based on what he thinks his fam­ily-ori­ented clien­tele would like.

“After you’ve done this for 30 years, you get a feel for it,” Larsen said with a grin. “PG13 does bet­ter than R-rated.”

Larsen’s non-tech way of do­ing busi­ness hasn’t changed. He keeps the video jacket in the racks, fronted by a small square of white card­board on which is a code that tells him when he bought the video and where it can be found on the shelves.

Cus­tomers take the white card for the video they want to rent to the front counter, where Larsen keeps the ac­tual videos. This not only keeps the store or­derly: no mis­filed videos; it negates the shoplift­ing specter, which cuts down on over­head.

Larsen’s keeps the new re­leases in one, two-wall sec­tion. Non-new-re­lease come­dies are nearby on an­other two walls. Around the cor­ner: ac­tion, ad­ven­ture, fam­ily and even a sec­tion of VHS tapes. Even more im­por­tant: walk in with the name of a movie you want to rent and Larsen will walk right to it.

The first video rental store started in 1977 in Los An­ge­les, shortly after 20th Cen­tury Fox li­censed 50 of its movies for sale di­rectly to con­sumers. By 1985, there were 15,000 video rental stores across the na­tion, ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle pub­lished by As­so­ci­ated Press.

But by about 2005, rent-by-mail and, later, on­line stream­ing of movies sounded the rapid demise of most video stores. Mas­sive chains like Block­Buster and Hol­ly­wood Video have with­ered. Larsen Video didn’t miss a beat.

“Get­ting into the video rental busi­ness was my wife’s idea,” Larsen said. He had worked at Geneva Steel for 25 years and was down­sized when new own­ers came in. Leon and Carolyn had five chil­dren and needed in­come.

“We talked about what to do,” Larsen said. “We liked movies, felt like we had an in­ter­est in the busi­ness, so we opened a place on Main Street.”

But there was no park­ing at their first lo­ca­tion, and a “movie house” was nearby, so they cast about for an­other op­tion. A tan­ning salon was us­ing half the build­ing Larsen Video cur­rently owns.

They bought that prop­erty and have kept it in much the same con­di­tion as it was after three weeks of renovation.

All that’s dif­fer­ent is a dis­play for Metro PCS, a no-con­tract tele­phone ser­vice that starts at $30/month and in­cludes buy­ing a tele­phone. Sev­eral va­ri­eties are avail­able. One that costs $39 is “a lot more for the same phone from T-Mo­bile,” Larsen said. Larsen Video also con­tracts for T-Mo­bile.

All five of their chil­dren worked over the years at Larsen’s Video, teach­ing them re­spon­si­bil­ity and a solid work ethic.

To­day, for the most part, Leon and Carolyn work with­out the ad­di­tion of em­ploy­ees.

“I’m work­ing more hours now than I have in years, but I still like it,” Larsen said. “I have no plans to do any­thing else.”

Larsen Video re­cently cel­e­brated 30 years of ser­vice to Springville cus­tomers.

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