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Neighborhood killed the video store • Brooklyn Paper

Neighborhood killed the video store

Boo Wu: Video Free Brooklyn own Dan Wu will close his Park Slope location, on Fifth Avenue, by the end of the week. Now he’s having a fire sale on DVDs — just $5 apiece.
The Brooklyn Paper / Allyse Pulliam

In the end, a video rental shop in Park Slope lived up to its name.

Video Free Brooklyn at 145 Fifth Ave. will go out of business at the end of the week, following a rocky 10 months.

“The warm months are definitely our slow months to begin with, so we were hoping in the fall it would pick up,” explained owner Dan Wu. “But, of course, the timing was really bad with the collapse of everything.”

Wu opened the Fifth Avenue outpost of his popular Smith Street store in March, but never got the traffic he needed. And when the economy tanked in the fall, Wu knew he was in for a rough ride.

You might think that video rental shops would do well, given the “staycation” trend, but Wu said you’d be wrong.

“That was my hope,” said Wu, whose closing was first reported by Gowanus Lounge, a blog. “But [what drives customer spending] is never an exact science, so you sometimes wonder what the story is. It’s strange.”

His location at 244 Smith St., at the corner of Douglass Street in Cobble Hill, is doing well, Wu said. That six-year-old store has an established clientele, and Wu said he’s made a point to stock more kid-friendly movies as his customers’ children grow up.

Wu figured expanding to the similar demographic stretch of Fifth Avenue would be a boon for business, he was shocked when he never made the same neighborhood connections.

Opening a new business in a changing economy is always tough, said a competitor, the manager of the Video Forum, which is at 133 Seventh Ave., near Carroll Street.

“It really depends on the amount of time [a store] has been around,” said the manager, Steve Wiener, noting that Video Forum opened over a decade ago and has a long list of customers who return each week.

“I feel like nowadays, regardless of the economy, it’s just not the right time anymore to open a video stores because of things like Netflix and online viewing. The video business itself is just a dying breed,” he added.

Indeed, another popular video rental shop, Cinematheque on Seventh Avenue near Union Street, was one of the first to shutter a couple of years ago. And Royal Video, a large rental shop on Flatbush Avenue at Sixth Avenue, contracted to a much smaller store last year a block away in Prospect Heights.

For now, the neighborhood’s other video store, Reel Life, remains on Eighth Avenue between 11th and 12th streets.

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