End of an era in the Cowichan Valley: video stores will be missed

End of an era in the Cowichan Valley: video stores will be missed

A time of cultural significance has rapidly disappeared with the closing of Pioneer’s Video

I used to love visiting video stores to pick up a movie or two to waste away those cold, miserable days.

The trip to the video store was always an adventure in itself, with many providing free popcorn to munch on as you slowly and methodically perused the many thousands of movies that were typically available to rent.

You would sometimes meet friends and acquaintances there, and they would enthusiastically recommend a number of movies they had recently viewed.

There were also always staff picks on the wall to help you in your selection, and the staff themselves were always available to provide advice.

Often, you could rent up to three old releases for three days for just $5, and there was never any shortage of old releases that I’d never seen before, or was more than willing to watch again.

Video stores were all the rage about 15 years ago, and there was usually one on every block, and videos were also available to rent in corner stores and even gas stations as well.

But in what seemed like a blink of an eye, largely due to the new technological ability to now rent movies directly online, the whole industry has collapsed and what few video stores are left have had to make whatever living they can catering to fringe markets, like foreign films and documentaries.

It’s been so long since I rented a video, which was almost a daily occurrence years ago, that I’d forgotten what a pleasure the simple task used to be.

I was reminded earlier this week when I visited Erfan Vaezi, owner of Duncan’s Pioneer’s Video & More.

Vaezi once owned six video stores in the Cowichan Valley during their heyday, but is now preparing to shut his last location on Beverly Street later this month.

It was instant nostalgia for me when the first thing I noticed upon entering the store was the smell of popcorn, and I took some time to check out the vast video collection, totalling more than 27,000, that Vaezi has compiled over the years, while I waited for him to have a few minutes to talk to me about the business.

I was in heaven, and had to remind myself what I was doing there when Vaezi said he was ready to be interviewed.

Vaezi, the fascinating fellow that he turned out to be, told me that he saw the great potential in the video rental industry in 1984, when it was young, while he was an accountant doing the books for one of the stores in Toronto.

Like any good businessman, he got in while it was hot, made a good living for himself and his staff and, now that the bottom has fallen out of the industry, he’s preparing to move on with acceptance and good grace.

It struck me that he is handling the demise of video stores better than me.

Technology moves ahead quickly and I’m sure there are many youngsters who would just roll their eyes at my fond memories of the past.

After all, the renting of a movie these days just requires a quick flick on everyone’s remote controls.

But, in my experience, the choice is just not there like in a video store of the past, and good luck trying to rent three oldies for $5.

Then there’s the whole social aspect of visiting these stores that I miss, and just getting out of the house to go there.

There’s no doubt things may be easier due to ever-changing technologies.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all the changes are good for everyone.

Personally, I find that I often long for the good old days.

Robert Barron is a reporter with the Cowichan Valley Citizen. He can be reached at Robert.Barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com.