At the outset, I have to disclose that in addition to writing this column, I work at Videoport, one of Portland’s two surviving video stores. And further, that I think that such places – endangered as they are – are worthwhile, even necessary.
Of course, my position here precludes me from writing a long, self-serving column making the case that you should choose an independent video store over soulless corporate concerns like Netflix, cable or one of those plastic vending machines. Luckily, Tim Goad is here to do that for me.
“I may sound naively hopeful,” said Goad, owner and proprietor of Bath’s River Bottom Video. “But I really do feel like there’s going to be a pendulum swing, not only with video stores but all brick-and-mortar stores. Things like online shopping, Netflix – they’re a novelty. But being able to talk to somebody and be able to handle the product – I think it’s going to be better.”
Goad has had that optimism tested recently – and brutally – when his small indie video store’s computers crashed (they held all River Bottom’s inventory and customer information). “When it happened, in my mind, I just had a vision of everything in the store on fire. Everything for me and my kids – just to get new computers and a new (video store) program would, I found, cost $1,500 to $3,000. When it happened, I literally curled up behind the counter and cried. I thought – I’ve sunk so much into this place, and now I’m going to lose it all.”
But the people of Bath aren’t having that.
After consulting with computer experts, his understanding landlord and others, Goad set up a fundraising campaign through the crowdsourcing site GoFundMe (here’s his campaign: gofundme.com/i9fp8w) which had raised $1,800 by press time of a suggested $2,500 to purchase new computers and software for River Bottom Video.
Nearly 70 people have donated, with more coming from River Bottom customers who have pitched in their dollars and cents to the cause, even as Goad has asked their patience while he records the mind-numbing details involved in the video biz by hand. (Indeed, while we were talking over speakerphone, a customer renting some movies told Goad to apply his change to the in-store fund.)
For Goad, such largesse is a heartening example of the sort of support he’s received from the Bath community all along.
“When (downtown booster group) Main Street Bath heard about our trouble, one member left the meeting to come in and ask what was the biggest rental plan he could buy (it’s $75 for 50 rentals). And he bought it.”
In keeping with the view of a lifelong movie freak, Goad couches his reaction to the community’s support for River Bottom in film terms.
“I feel like George Bailey in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ ” he said. “The entire town has rallied around me.”
And, as for the future of video stores, Goad remains as idealistic as Bailey, explaining that, as a small-business owner, he assiduously shops for everything from his new releases to his office supplies at local stores. “If you support local businesses, they’ll give back to your community.”
As for River Bottom, Goad said, well, all the things I’ve always wanted to say in this column. “Heartwarming is not a strong enough word,” said Goad. “It’s humbling. And I like to think that people get something out of the video store experience that they don’t get from Netflix or cable or Redbox. You’re not just a number here, you’re a person. We video stores are like the dodo, but we have a lot to offer. That’s the appeal of our shop – it’s not just a dispensary of movies, it’s an experience. And these days, even one person choosing to spend their money with us can make a huge difference.”
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
STATE THEATRE, Portland | statetheatreportland.com
Friday: “It’s A Wonderful Life” & “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Five bucks gets you into this holiday classic double feature. You know what they’re about – Christmasy goodness for everyone!
FRONTIER, Brunswick | explorefrontier.com
Thursday-Sunday: “Jingle Bell Rocks!” You know how all Christmas music is overplayed and – I’ll say it – sickeningly awful? Well in this documentary, filmmaker Mitchell Kezin consults with carol aficionados like John Waters, Rev Run (of Run DMC) and Dr. Demento in a search for obscure Christmas songs that will not make you feel ill.