Assistant manager of one of Calgary’s last rental stores says business still good over a year after Blockbuster closures

Casablanca Video has been a staple in Calgary’s Marda Loop area for more than 30 years. Despite a lack of customer parking, Casablanca must be doing something right, as it’s among the few video rental stores left in Calgary.

Not only did the store out-live large video-chain Blockbuster Video by about a year and a half, the sales have continued to rise five to 10 per cent each year, assistant manager Tiara Simmons said.

HOW TO STAY AFLOAT

“The big fad is Netflix… They are massively in debt,” Simmons said. “So we are just hoping to stay alive past that little fad.”

Jeff Borschowa, Calgary-based small business consultant, said that the biggest thing a store can do in a dying industry is always be looking ahead, and always be adding on to the services and products offered.

An empty building in the south of Calgary is still marked with the remnants of Blockbuster signs over a year after its doors closed.

Photo by Laren Pritchard“The first thing they need to look at is alternative and complimentary services, and how can they utilize their current reputation to move into other product,” Borschowa said.

However, when bringing in new products they must always think about whom they are offering these new services to, and not forget their old clientele, he added. There is always a market and target for everything, he said. Borschowa emphasized that when expanding a business, owners must find ways that bring old clients along as well as bring in new ones.

“If you are in a dying industry that’s known for being stale and dated, you almost need to consider looking at new technology to bring in new clients, which would be some avenue of social media, or a way to tie in with a company such as Netflix,” Borschowa said.

DOING SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Depending on the day, customers may see storeowner Jon Lord at work behind the counter or on the floor.

Casablanca meanwhile specializes in hard-to-find, eclectic and specialty movies.

“If someone comes in and they can’t find the movie they were originally looking for the staff is always able to find them something else, so you are never leaving empty-handed,” said Simmons.

“Casablanca has that small ‘mom and pop’ feel to it, which Blockbuster never had. There is such easy access to new releases via online sources that the appeal Casablanca has comes from the classics, movies that have slipped your mind and can only be re-discovered by wandering the aisles.”

They cater to a wide range of audiences including young people and foreign-language speakers.

THE EXPERIENCE

Customers say it is the experience and the wide selection that brings them back to Casablanca.

Mark Salkeld said he has been going to Casablanca for around six months, after stopping in looking for a good classic movie since the idea of a new release wasn’t appealing that night. Before going to Casablanca, it had been around five years since Salkeld had rented a movie, he said.

“Casablanca has that small ‘mom and pop’ feel to it, which Blockbuster never had,” Salkeld added. “There is such easy access to new releases via online sources that the appeal Casablanca has comes from the classics, movies that have slipped your mind and can only be re-discovered by wandering the aisles.”

Salkeld said he also uses other newer outlets to watch new release movies such as Netflix, YouTube, Google TV and the Sony Entertainment Network. However, Salkeld plans to continue to go to Casablanca to rent old classics that are difficult to find elsewhere.

lpritchard@cjournal.ca