Business & Real Estate

This local business held on long after profits – and VCRs – disappeared

FILE -- Ann Meshot, left, and her daughter Isabel make their weekly visit to Awesome Video on Thursday, March 27, 2008 in South Sacramento. An independently owned and operated video store, ownership announced Sunday, April 8, 2018, that the store will be closing.
FILE -- Ann Meshot, left, and her daughter Isabel make their weekly visit to Awesome Video on Thursday, March 27, 2008 in South Sacramento. An independently owned and operated video store, ownership announced Sunday, April 8, 2018, that the store will be closing. Sacramento Bee File

South Land Park institution Awesome Video kept its doors open long after Blockbuster shuttered its Sacramento locations as the internet and streaming services forever changed the way Americans watch movies.

But on Sunday, the video rental store announced that the same forces that have taken down video rental chains and movie theaters across the country have finally hit Awesome Video. Sunday was its last day in business, but the store will reopen on April 15 from noon to 6 p.m. to sell off its inventory. From then on, the store will remain open every day or until Memorial Day to sell out the collection.

Owner Mai Thu got briefly teary as she explained her decision to close the store.

"The business has not been making money for years and I can no longer just carry it," she said. "It's sad and I wish that I had a way to keep doing what I'm doing."

Buoyed by her love for movies, she has been covering the store's expenses for several years, she said. Now she wants to spend time with her family, particularly her aging mother.

"I don't get paid, it's just a labor of love," she said. "I love what I'm doing and I love my customers and having my collection and sharing it with my customers."

But the business has changed over the last two decades. Consumers have easy access to movies through their computers and phones and new generations find going to a rental place inconvenient, she said.

And Hollywood itself has changed. Thu, 53, said the last new movie she saw was "Lady Bird," written and directed by hometown hero Greta Gerwig. Ten years ago, she would have watched all of the Oscar nominees in preparation for the awards ceremony, but she's lost interest in modern cinema.

"I don't have the heart to watch Hollywood anymore," she said. "I guess maybe I'm getting old and my expectations are different."

She thinks fondly of the movies made in the 1950s and 1960s that still garner large followings today, like "The Sound of Music" and "Casablanca."

A native of Vietnam, Thu said she learned much of her English from watching movies and has learned a lot about the world from watching foreign films.

"I just learned so much about different cultures," she said.

Awesome Video opened in 1994. Thu was originally the manager, operating the store for her friends Tessa and John Le. In 2004, they wanted to focus more on their restaurant businesses, so Thu took over Awesome Video, she said.

A Facebook post announcing the closure was shared 36 times in seven hours. Commenters thanked Thu for the memories and said her store will be missed.

Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison

  Comments