Stop the tape: Credits will roll on Brooklyn Heights’ last video store at the year’s end

Stop the tape: Credits will roll on Brooklyn Heights’ last video store at the year’s end
Stefano Giovannini

It is the last store in Brooklyn Heights where you can rent “White Christmas,” but this year, its Christmas is going to be blue.

The neighborhood’s only video rental store Mr. Video III, on Clark Street, is closing shop for good on New Year’s Eve, and the owner of the 27-year-old business says that all that time spent telling people to be kind and rewind blinded him to the fact that technology was leaving him behind.

“If you’re not using the internet as a proper tool — versus resisting it like we were — you’ll just get lost in the shuffle,” said owner Rafael Perez, who started working at the store as a clerk 18 years ago.

Perez started pestering the old managers for a job at the video store back when he was in grade school, he said. He finally landed a job there when he was a teen and stayed on as a clerk until the owner decided to bow out of the business.

“I decided I was going to keep it around a little bit longer,” Perez said.

So he purchased the business himself.

The video store was one of many that dotted the borough and was, at the time, as ordinary and expected as a corner bodega. In fact, Mr. Video III was once part of a national chain, which does not quite explain the Roman numeral in its name. But by 1995, when Perez began working there, all the far-flung Mr. Video owners had gone their separate ways, leaving the place the second sequel in a forgotten trilogy.

“Mister Video was one of those names you just paid for, like McDonald’s,” Perez said. “I looked on the internet years ago and found there was a Mr. Video in Nevada. I sent out an e-mail to him and never heard back.”

The flick fortress’s orphaned status gave it a surprise boost during the 2000s as Mr. Video III came to attract customers, first as an alternative to Blockbuster, and then as a throwback amid the dominance of online movie streaming sites like Netflix.

“When people discover that there’s a video store here they say it’s so nice to browse and look around,” Perez said, adding that the human interaction his store provides cannot be replicated by the web.

But the novelty was not enough to keep the business afloat.

The store has been selling off its video stock to the public over the last few months and will continue until it shutters one last time in December. And now, after years of slow nights, the store is bustling again.

“A lot of people have been talking, telling their stories, reminiscing,” Perez said. “It’s been an interesting couple of weeks.”

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.