Video rentals come to Manistee

It’s funny how things change.

Movie Time Video was the first video rental store in Manistee and was originally located at 410 River Street in 1984. By 1986 the store moved to a new location at 321 River St.

Movie Time Video was the first video rental store in Manistee and was originally located at 410 River Street in 1984. By 1986 the store moved to a new location at 321 River St.

A few months ago, I asked one of our volunteers, high school sophomore Elliot Kamaloski, if he knew and/or remembered VCRs or video cassettes. His response, simultaneously making me laugh and feel old was, “Not really”.

For all of us who grew up during the advent of the VCR and the intervening years, it’s may be difficult to imagine that the current generation of teenagers don’t remember video cassettes and that future generations probably won’t either.

As someone who grew up in that particular time period, it still amazes me that you can click on a button and watch a movie or TV show on pretty much any given device. But before iPads, before Netflix, before something called a Samsung Galaxy S7, and before even VHS, people either watched movies at the theater or had to wait for it to come on television.

While commonplace today, to rent a movie was a breakthrough because you had the opportunity to pause, rewind, fast-forward, and stop the movie at your convenience. This was great for many reasons because if you had to go to the bathroom, or get something to eat, or great aunt Susie called up and wanted to converse for 45 minutes, you could stop and return to the movie when you wanted to or you could simply watch it again.

So (to go on record) for the current young generation who may be reading this now or, for whatever reason, may possibly read it years from now, the following is a brief history of Manistee’s video rental businesses in that seemingly faraway land called the 1980s.

After VHS tapes made a breakthrough in the early 1980s, home movie viewing in which movies were imprinted on cassette tape in a factory, then sold and rented out to the public, began to increase substantially in bigger cities. Near the middle of the decade, VCRs (which cost an inordinate amount of money) and VHS tapes began to be rented in smaller cities with consumers eventually given two formats to choose from, Betamax and VHS.

In the late summer of 1984, the first video rental business to open its doors in Manistee was Movie Time Video located at 410 River Street. An article published in the Manistee News Advocate on September 27, 1984 provided details on the opening of the new store:

“After six months training with a video recorder leading firm in the Brighton area downstate, former Bear Lake High School principal and present owner of Home Entertainment Enterprises, Dan Nemode has opened his first home video rental store.

“Movie Time Video, as the store is called, could have been located in any one of the 14 Michigan areas surveyed by Nemode’s company, but he chose to begin his new enterprise in his old stomping ground. As he puts it, ‘I was familiar with the area and people,’ and since his long range plan ‘is to move up in northern Michigan to smaller towns,’ Manistee County fit the bill perfectly.

“With over 600 titles in stock the Manistee store is off to a good start. During its opening over the Labor Day weekend, 300 tapes were rented on Friday and Saturday, nine VHS video cassette recorders (VCR) were sold, and all of the store’s VCRs available for rent (at $5 a day) were in use.

“According to Nemode local residents have been pleased with the store and he in turn has been pleased with their suggestions, one of which led to an improvement in the tape rental check-out procedure and others which indicated the need for his almost immediate 50 title increase in the stores Beta tape library.

“‘Response has been very favorable,’ says Nemode, and with his plans to add 20 to 30 new titles each month at the Manistee location, the October opening of a satellite store with 100 to 115 titles at the Bear Lake Hardware Store, and the addition of other similar stores in Kaleva and the Benzonia-Frankfort area, he hopes to keep it that way.”

Like many small towns across the United States, the video rental business took off and roughly six months later more video rental stores were opened in Manistee. In March of 1985, Pik-A-Flik located at 353 River Street opened its doors as did Family Video which was located inside the Comfort Center on Kemmer Road. An article published in the Manistee News Advocate on March 27, 1985 provided details on the opening of the then Family Video:

“The Comfort Center north of Manistee now features a video shop in one corner of the building. Family Video, managed by Pat Barra, opened for business March 4 and so far business has been ‘going really well,’ she said. The store carries ‘everything from children’s films to action/adventure to science fiction and horror films,’ she said, but stressed that they carry no x-rated movies.

“This store is the first Family Video which may become a part of all eight Comfort Centers in Northern Michigan by summer ‘if it goes well.’

“‘A membership in one will be a membership in all,’ Barra said.

“She said they screen all the films stocked in the store, which means taking home about two films each night, so they can tell customers about them.”

Shortly thereafter everywhere you looked (mainly grocery stores) began to offer video rentals: Video Express, Oleson’s, Jay’s, Plumb’s (which later became Prevo’s), Rite Aid, Eberhard’s, both Wesco stations, Jug-N-Plug, etc. Often times if there was a particular title you wanted to see and it was “out” at the normal place you rented videos (as often times the places only had one copy), what was a seemingly short trip to the video store ended up being a city wide search for said title as one would check everywhere to see if it was “in”.

In 1986, Movie Time Video moved to 321 River Street due to the expansion and addition of the new Milliken’s store. Likewise, the building at 410 River Street was torn down. In the early 1990s, Vision Video bought out Movie Time Video and moved to 319 River Street. In addition, during this time many of the aforementioned places began renting video games.

In 1995, the short-lived Mammoth Video opened in Filer City and in November of that same year, the current Family Video opened on Cypress Street. By January of 1996 Mammoth Video was closed and roughly five years later, DVD’s began to take over the home video market.

Thirty years from now one can only guess as to how we will be viewing home entertainment or what new found technology will be considered “cool”. Chances are though that some decades down the road, Elliot (our intrepid volunteer) might ask someone younger, “Do you remember DVDs or Netflix?” to which they will reply, “Not really”.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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