The last Blockbuster store believes it’ll survive the pandemic

  • The last Blockbuster in the world is in Bend, Oregon, using 14 employees and nonetheless letting costumers hire movies the quaint approach. 
  • The coronavirus pandemic has restricted store guests, elevating questions of survivability.
  • But they’re nonetheless working, providing curbside supply and following social distancing protocols. 
  • The response has been overwhelmingly constructive, and the homeowners do not anticipate the store to shutter anytime quickly.
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On March 31, 2019, the Blockbuster video store situated inside a retail strip mall in Bend, Oregon, formally earned bragging rights as the last surviving Blockbuster on the planet, after the solely different remaining location in Western Australia shuttered. 

In its heyday, the as soon as ubiquitous yellow-and-blue video-rental chain empire operated 9,094 shops round the world, using greater than 84,00zero folks. Today, one store with 14 workers and a pc that may solely be rebooted with a floppy disk stays. 

Bend Blockbuster’s survival is nothing wanting miraculous. Rather than try and compete with the company big, Ken and Debbie Tisher, homeowners of the then-Pacific Video store, adopted the “If you can’t beat them, join them” angle and transformed their mother and pop video enterprise right into a Blockbuster franchise in 2000. A decade later, when Blockbuster went stomach up and filed for chapter, leaving Dish Network to accumulate its remaining belongings in an public sale, The Tishers opted to stay a franchise. Year after yr, as know-how reshaped the approach folks watched films, different areas started to shut their doorways till sooner or later last spring, Bend Blockbuster turned the last store standing. 

With no company entity in existence to offer branded items and provides, Bend Blockbuster has no alternative however to fend for themselves and get inventive. They hand-make their weekly new launch boards and design their very own flyers (conveniently, The Tishers additionally personal a UPS Store with printing capabilities), laminate membership playing cards one after the other, create their very own branded merchandise, and even hit big-box shops like Target and Walmart early in the morning on new launch day to top off on the latest films for the store, as the distribution outlet that supplied 80% of their content material just lately went out of enterprise. 

Yet regardless of all of those challenges, up till just lately, the sole franchise was not solely surviving however thriving, drawing in a mixture of devoted residents and die-hard film followers. There are additionally the throngs of nostalgia-seekers set on making a bucket listing pilgrimage to this company remnant, left over from a time when folks spent Friday nights shuffling by way of the aisles, studying the backs of films earlier than selecting one, and selecting up snacks.

The huge query now’s: Can the lone standout survive the coronavirus pandemic?

Sandi Harding, the store’s supervisor for the previous 16 years, has little doubt it’s going to. 

Bend Blockbuster Manager, Sandi Harding credit Ryan Harding.PNG

Sandi Harding.

Ryan Harding

“We’ve survived Netflix, Redbox, all kinds of movie streaming, and even Blockbuster corporate closing, and we’ll survive this, too. It’s not going to be easy, but we adjust and adapt, it’s just what we do here,” she mentioned. 

And regulate they did. When Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown issued a statewide govt order on March 23, 2020, calling for the closure of sure nonessential companies and tasking these permitted to stay open to “establish, implement, and enforce social distancing policies” in accordance with the Oregon Health Authority, the store fell into the latter class. Following the directive, Harding instituted a restrict of 10 members in the store at a time. Shortly after, she realized folks had been nonetheless too shut to 1 one other, so that they closed for 3 weeks to make changes. 

How the pandemic has affected enterprise as traditional

“My biggest concern was making sure our employees weren’t put at risk and to ensure it was a safe environment to work in before reopening,” mentioned Harding. In addition to total issues about well being security, there was additionally the challenge of monetary safety. Harding mentioned there have been no layoffs, and, in accordance with Ken Tisher, they just lately utilized for and obtained a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) mortgage “that will be a great help with our payroll,” he mentioned.

While the bodily store remained closed for 3 weeks, clients had been provided the choice of curbside pick-up — which is way more concerned than it sounds as a result of the store doesn’t have their 22,00zero film stock on-line, solely new releases. 

blockbuster 2 credit Ryan Harding

An worker placing a sanitized DVD in a Ziploc bag.

Ryan Harding

According to Harding, members focused on curbside pick-up had been instructed to name the store with a want listing of films they wished to hire, pay by bank card, and supply their license plate quantity. Then, an worker sporting a masks and gloves would search the cabinets and pull these titles in inventory. From there, the DVD instances had been sanitized with a Clorox wipe and sealed in a Ziploc bag together with a observe. 

Once the members arrived exterior the store, they’d name and an worker would deliver the films to their automotive. Harding estimated between 10 and 20 clients a day used their curbside service throughout the store’s closure. 

In between curbside deliveries, Harding and her staff stored busy rearranging the footprint of the store to make sure social distancing mandates had been noticed by creating one entrance and exit, rearranging the checkout line space, and cleansing each floor with Lysol. 

last blockbuster social distancing

Social distancing markers in the store.

Ryan Harding

“I don’t think our counters have been this clean in the 16 years we’ve been open,” mentioned Harding. They additionally spent 5 full days changing the labels on all 22,00zero films in inventory, as most of the unique stickers had dried up and fallen off over the years. 

For the time being, store hours have been adjusted from 11:00 a.m. to six:00 p.m., which Harding refers to as their “COVID hours.” She hopes to be again to common hours (10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.) by May 15.  

Despite shortened hours, Harding hasn’t been ready to withstand giving a couple of after-hours excursions to the handful of vacationers who had their coronary heart set on stepping inside the ’80’s throwback. 

What’s subsequent for the last Blockbuster

“The amount of love and support we’ve received from people all over the world has been phenomenal. Over the weekend, we had 46 online merchandise orders come in. That was a record number for us,” mentioned Harding.

blockbuster 7 credit Ryan Harding

An worker putting an order.

Ryan Harding

As for what’s in store subsequent, it is anyone’s guess, however each Ken Tisher and Sandi Harding are assured they’re going to nonetheless be round, holding down the yellow and blue fort in all it is retro glory when all of that is behind us.  

“Had we been forced to close entirely for a lengthy period, I would say we would likely survive, but just barely. We will survive this pandemic through outstanding management by Sandi and her crew and a bunch of other folks who support us in a variety of ways,” mentioned Tisher.

Harding added, “We are taking it day by day, just like we always have around here and so far, it’s worked for us. There’s a reason we are the last ones.”

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