Picture this: it’s Friday evening and you’ve done all your homework already. Your mom is making your favorite dinner and while she’s cooking, your dad asks if you want to drive over to the local Blockbuster to pick out a movie. Life is good.
At its height in 2004, Blockbuster had over nine thousand locations all over America that provided its members with a curated selection of the biggest Hollywood hits.
But by 2018, the video rental chain store had dwindled down to just one store, in Bend, Ore. The store still stands today, but just who is the uncrushable owner of the last remaining Blockbuster store?
Who owns the last Blockbuster store?
Blockbuster was once the premiere destination for renting movies to watch in the comfort of your own home, but with the rise of streaming services and DVR technology, the chain has slowly been edged out by the competition.
After Blockbuster declared bankruptcy in 2011, it saw a gradual shutdown of nearly all its stores in the U.S. And by 2019, every single Blockbuster store had been shuttered except for one.
The Blockbuster in Bend, Ore. is still open and serves as a reminder of the rental chain’s heyday. Its owner, Ken Tisher, had always been in the video rental business and owned a local chain of video stores called Pacific Video since the 1990s.
In 2000, Ken licensed the franchise name and converted all his stores into Blockbuster stores. But as streaming services took hold of the video rental market, Ken was forced to close down most of the branches of his video rental chain except for the one on Northeast Revere Street in Bend.
As the only survivor of the changes in technology that have altered the way audiences watch movies at home, Ken’s Blockbuster is still open today and he has no plans of shutting it down any time soon.
Sandi Harding, who’s managed the Bend Blockbuster since 2004, credits the store’s staying power with a “core group of customers that know we’re local, are very loyal and come in every week.”
She makes sure her customers have the latest movie selections, shopping for new titles at Walmart and Target every week, and complimenting movie rentals with a selection of candy that she gets from Costco.
The video store has also managed to weather the effects of the pandemic when many other businesses have been forced to shut their doors for good.
Sandi told the New York Times that when the pandemic started she was worried for the business, but now, “everyone’s tired of sitting at home on their phones and their laptops and not having any personal interactions.”
With online merchandise sales and a local community looking to help the business, Sandi said the Blockbuster was doing better than ever. Sandi also partnered up with Airbnb to let locals sleepover at the store for a bit of a nostalgic movie marathon for $4 (one penny more than a movie rental) a night.
While renting at Blockbuster admittedly doesn’t provide the same convenience as clicking a button on Netflix, Sandi told The Wrap that the store “can give that personal customer service that you won’t get at home in your couch,” and these days, a little personal interaction goes a long way.
To learn more, watch The Last Blockbuster on March 15 when it becomes available to stream, ironically, on Netflix.