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Stop button pressed on Columbus video store

Katie Harriman / Lantern reporter

North Campus Video gave customers what they won’t find at a Redbox — human interaction, staff recommendations, obscure, almost-impossible-to-find films and personal pornography previews in the comfort of their own booth.

But that will soon change.

The store, located at 2471 North High St., will be open until its sells all the videos, which are priced at $5.99, and will continue to drop in cost. Co-owner John Swift said he anticipates the store will close at the end of March.

North Campus Video opened in 1978 as North Campus News, a vendor of newspapers and magazines. After changing its name to North Campus Video, it grew into one of the most taboo shops in Columbus, offering mostly pornographic material, including “preview booths” where patrons could watch a porno before deciding to rent it.

By the early ‘90s, laws in Franklin County made the “preview booth” operation too much of a hassle, but the store held onto its large selection of adult material while adopting more mainstream videos, cult classics and just about every obscure title imaginable.

David Hoke, the other co-owner, and Swift watched the evolution of VHS to DVD and now digital. Along with the digital age and kiosk rental services such as Redbox, they said road construction outside their store in 2008-09 is partly to blame for closing the landmark campus location.

“You couldn’t park on High Street, or even get into our parking lot from High Street,” Hoke said. “It hurt a lot of small businesses in the area.”

Swift said they couldn’t recover after the construction.

“We tried to give it a run after that,” Swift added. “But we were never able to get back to where we were.”

With more than 10,000 videos, North Campus Video managed to outlive the Blockbuster and Hollywood Video that were located down the block.

Matt Egan, 35, has worked at the North Campus Video, and its sister Video Central stores, for 14 years. The two Video Central locations closed within the last five years. Egan said the feeling of leaving is “bittersweet.”

“It’s like a death in the family,” Egan said. “It’s all I’ve known my entire adult life, but it’s kind of good to have a different path to take.”

Egan said the depersonalization of services in recent years has resulted in the end of the “hub of counterculture” that existed in video stores. Egan attended Ohio State and said he remembers the first time he visited North Campus Video.

“As soon as I got to college, I knew about this place. It was legendary,” Egan said with a smile. “You could have frat boys talking to punk-rockers debating about movies. It was just a place for people to come together.”

With the closing of locally-owned and large chains across the country, the experience of visiting a video rental store is something younger generations might never experience. Egan said many of his childhood memories involve going to the video store with friends.

“Every Friday night, my mom would take me and some friends to Blockbuster, get some pizza, rent a couple video games,” Egan said. “The younger generation now, a lot of them don’t even know what it’s like to go to a video store. It’s evolution. It’s the way things go, but it’s the end of an era.”

Swift, 42, said they hate to close the store because they have so many customers who come almost daily.

“I know customers who walk in, I know their names, what they like to watch,” Swift said. “You say, ‘Hey, right over there if you wanna see that, here I’m holding this one for you if you want to see it.’ So that’s the thing we’re really going to miss.”

Hoke said he is concerned about finding a new job, but he is more sad to see the store close because, along with Dick’s Den and The Blue Danube, it was one of the older businesses on High Street.

“I’m 61 years old. I’ve gotta start looking for a job,” Hoke said with a sigh. “It’s going to be rough, but I’m more sad for our customers who’ve been coming here for so long.”

Martin Cole, 56, has worked at North Campus Video for 10 years. He said he is proud that North Campus Video lasted as long as it did in today’s market, but the proximity to campus should have kept them in business.

“Here’s a campus of 50,000 people that will have nowhere to go except Redbox. No video stores will be servicing campus at all,” Cole said. “You can’t go in and put your hands on something. It’s good to pick stuff up, look at it and decide, but I guess if there were more people who liked to do that, we would still be here.”

Gabriel Morris, 33, an OSU alumnus, recently returned to Columbus after moving around the country for seven years. He said he was sad to learn the store was closing just as he moved back to the area.

“It’s the best video store I’ve come across, and I’ve lived in Boston, Chicago, and other big cities,” Morris said. “The selection, variety, pricing, wonderful, helpful staff. It’s just a gem. It’s a campus landmark.”

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