SAVING VIDEO ONE
Video One launches campaign to become nonprofit DVD library
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.”
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.
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.