Video One launches cam­paign to be­come non­profit DVD li­brary

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By John Wen­zel The Den­ver Post

Den­ver’s first— and now last — video rental store is fundrais­ing to con­vert to a non­profit DVD li­brary.

Jeff Hahn de­cided to buy Video One, Den­ver’s old­est and largest video rental store, not be­cause it was part of a vi­able, grow­ing in­dus­try or be­cause he had plans to in­no­vate the crum­bling busi­ness model. He just wanted to pre­serve his sec­ond home.

“At this point I’ve spent most of my adult life here,” said Hahn, 33, as he leaned against the counter this week, sur­rounded by posters, card­board cutouts of movie stars and other sun- faded ephemera. “We’ve had a lot of longterm cus­tomers who have rented here for decades, peo­ple who have met here and had kids. It’s a com­mu­nity.”

Hahn, who be­gan work­ing at Video One in 2001 and bought the store in 2009, is now try­ing to save his home from de­mo­li­tion.

Ser­vices like Red Box’s stand- alone rental kiosks and Net­flix’s video stream­ing have largely wiped out video rental stores, those old- school an­swers to the ques­tion, “What should we watch tonight— and where should we get it?”

In its hey­day, Video One lorded over the cor­ner of East Col­fax Av­enue and Lafayette Street in a three- level, 30,000square- foot build­ing filled with 50,000 VHS cas­settes, in­clud­ing an en­tire base­ment de­voted to pornog­ra­phy.

“Peo­ple would lit­er­ally yell out, ‘ Hey, Video One guys!’ when Iwalked around Capi­tol Hill withmy friends,” Hahn re­mem­bered. “Ev­ery­body knew us.”

But thanks to cor­po­rate chains such as Block­buster then the rise of on­line and mo­bile video ser­vices, in­de­pen­dent rental stores ( and, later, all video stores) be­gan dis­ap­pear­ing.

Video One re­mains an ex­cep­tion, al­beit a faded one. Founder and pre­vi­ous owner Richard Bunch moved the store from its Col­fax lo­ca­tion, which for nearly 15 years fea­tured a mas­sive, south- fac­ing mu­ral of James Dean from “Rebel With­out a Cause,” to a 3,500square- foot store­front across the street — its fourth home since 1983.

Af­ter Hahn paid $ 35,000 for Video One’s DVD and VHS col­lec­tion in 2009, he ran the store there for three years be­fore mov­ing it to a con­verted house at 600 Down­ing St., just across East Sixth Av­enue from the cinephile friendly Esquire Theater.

Cus­tomers con­tin­ued to dwin­dle,

rent in­creased and Hahn found him­self fun­nel­ing money from his Saber Vape startup ( which sells $ 200 me­chan­i­cal hash oil pens “built specif­i­cally for big ston­ers”) to keep Video One afloat.

But the fact that Hahn’s bills are $ 1,000 to $ 2,000 more than his monthly rev­enue ( about $ 8,000-$ 9,000) means Video One’s life sup­port is tem­po­rary.

Hahn was en­cour­aged by the ex­am­ple of Scare­crow Video, a Seat­tle video rental store that last year con­verted its 120,000- ti­tle li­brary— the coun­try’s largest in­de­pen­dently owned col­lec­tion— into a non­profit com­mu­nity archive with the help of Kick­starter.

Af­ter a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from fundrais­ing web­site Indiegogo reached out to him on Face­book with a sim­i­lar plan, Hahn de­cided to try crowdfunding. This week he launched a page on gen­eros­ity. comto try to raise $ 50,000 to cover op­er­at­ing ex­penses, new pur­chases and the cost of tran­si­tion­ing Video One into a Den­ver- based non­profit li­brary.

If suc­cess­ful, Hahn plans to launch ad­di­tional cam­paigns.

“If you look hard enough you can find any­thing on­line,” Hahn said. “But in terms of ac­tual, le­gal video ser­vices there are a lot of holes and gaps. There are tens if not hun­dreds of thou­sands of VHS films that never made it to DVD, and count­less DVDs that haven’t been made avail­able for stream­ing.”

“Due to their con­tracts, most stream­ing ser­vices don’t main­tain per­ma­nent col­lec­tions,” added Video One em­ployee Ian An­der­son, 30. “Films dis­ap­pear from their ar­chives all the time, and there are clas­sics you just can’t get any­where else.”

More than that, he said, a video store — un­like a pub­lic li­brary— pro­vides a place for film lovers to gather, browse and in­ter­act with other pas­sion­ate, knowl­edgable peo­ple. Like record shops and book stores, they’re fo­cal points for fans of phys­i­cal me­dia, as well as those with­out the means or de­sire to con­sume ev­ery­thing dig­i­tally.

“I like lo­cal ven­dors in gen­eral,” said Bob Bow­man, 63, who vis­ited Video One for the first time this week. “I live around here and have driven by plenty of times, but never stopped in un­til I needed this.”

“This” was an out- of- print DVD for a themed sur­prise party Bow­man was host­ing ( the name of which will, at his re­quest, re­main se­cret).

Along with Video­tique, a GLBT-fo­cused video store three blocks north of Video One, it’s the only place to rent it in Den­ver.

Hahn smiled as Bow­man left the store, walk­ing past a counter stocked with Milk Duds, Goobers, M& Ms and in­di­vid­u­ally- wrapped bags of mi­crowave pop­corn. He knows his reg­u­lars by name and wel­comes them weekly.

“I just can’t con­tinue to live like this and ex­pect I’ll have any of th­ese guys com­ing back here in a few months,” said Hahn, who spends about $ 3,000 per month ac­quir­ing new re­leases.

“Be­ing a non­profit al­lows me to ap­ply for grants, and to ac­quire rare, beau­ti­ful copies of things. It’s just ironic that I have to raise a bunch of money to be­come one.”

Bren­den Neville, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post

Jeff Hahn sits on the floor in­side his busi­ness, Video One, in Den­ver. Hahn is at­tempt­ing to con­vert the store into a non­profit to pre­serve the me­dia col­lec­tion.

Pho­tos by Bren­den Neville, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post

Ge­orginna Farago, who is en­gaged to owner Jeff Hahn, browses through Hahn’s busi­ness, Video One, in Den­ver.

Jeff Hahn launched a page on gen­eros­ity. comto try to raise $ 50,000.

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