Things looked grim for Le Video when the quirky movie rental spot announced they would stop renting videos at the end of April. Today, however, it looks like their calls for a co-tenant to come and rescue the space have been answered by none other than the Richmond's Green Apple Books.
Beginning in August, Green Apple Books will occupy 1,500 square feet on the lower level of Le Video's cinema-themed building on Ninth Avenue in the Sunset. That's about one-third of the size of their Richmond Store, which gets about 500 visitors a day, compared to Le Video's 120.
We can thank San Francisco's aversion to formula retail for Green Apple's prosperity in the face of Amazon's slashing-and-burning of the large chain bookstores: as the Chronicle reports today, sales at local bookstores have actually increased over the past couple of years.
Unfortunately, the same doesn't hold true for local movie audiences who have shifted to streaming films online to their various devices and connected TVs rather than getting off the couch for a trip to the video store. It doesn't hurt that VHS tapes, DVDs and Blu-Rays don't have quite the same luster as collector's items since, unlike books, they will inevitably become obsolete as formats evolve.
Still, part of Le Video's mission was to preserve some 20,000 titles that you won't find online and according to founder Catherine Tchen, the shop doesn't plan to change that. As Tchen told the Chronicle, she's been keeping the shop afloat ever since American Beauty won Best Picture:
"I have not taken a salary in 14 years," Tchen said from her home just outside of Portland, Ore., where she moved 14 years ago to have more space for her many cats and other animals. But since then, she had spent what was intended to be her retirement on keeping the store afloat "and I needed to be able to meet my mortgage, my health benefits."
To accommodate all those titles, the store will be shrinking the in-store browsing section and allowing visitors to search titles via a kiosk or online at home. In addition to the stacks, Tchen envisions Le Video's sequel will become more of film community center with lectures and movie nights.
While the Green Apple/Le Video II double feature is expected to open in August, the space will be in transition over the next few months and despite a successful $35,000 IndieGogo campaign to save the space, Tchen and company will be looking to raise another $30,000-60,000 to finalize the renovations.