Not many movie rental store owners can say they’ve run a successful business for over 30 years. Lifetime Shelton resident and owner of Video 7 on Kneen Street, Bob Achille says he’s thankful that his business has survived through the struggles caused by technological advancements and changes to the industry.
“Some people just want convenience and have tried to eliminate the person-to-person interaction that used to come with renting movies,” said Achille. “A lot of people thought I was crazy when we opened back in ‘84, they didn’t see the potential I did. Not only would people come to check out movies, but for the experience.”
The inside of Video 7 is filled wall-to-wall with old VHS and the most recent releases on DVD/Blu Rays, autographed photos of actors Achille met at a number of movie conventions, and even some rare Pamela Anderson memorabilia.
The long-time owner recalls when movie stores were people’s primary source for seeing films, other than going to the theatres. His in-store method of serving customers also provided entertainment for customers.
“We got really busy, but we were so smooth,” said Achille. “The customers would tell whoever was at the counter what movie they wanted to rent, whoever was at the counter would take the movie cover and fling it to whoever was in back where the library of movies are, and then they would quickly sling the copy of the VHS up to whoever was at the register. I believe it was the whole experience that customers enjoyed and were willing to wait in a line for.”
Due to some customer’s desire to skip taking the trip to the video store all together, Achille had to downsize his staff and is now the only person working in the store. With Video 7’s main competitors being powerhouses like Redbox and Netflix, he said staying open got tough at times.
“We did VCR repairs over the years and warranty stuff, but the business has changed so much over the years that we rely a lot on people coming to us faithfully to get the nostalgic experience of going to the store and renting a movie,” Achille said. “We also have an extensive library of over 17,000 titles. If you look along the top of the walls we still have the top original top 100 sellers since we’ve been open. They haven’t changed.”
An antique Coke machine and pinball machine add to the store’s retro effect.
Achille has since took on a full-time job as a teacher at Eli Whitney Tech., a trade school in Hamden, to help keep the business afloat. He said although times and the business have changed his love and passion for helping customers has not.
Movie 7 is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays with fluctuating hours. Achille said because he lives within 10 blocks of the store, he does his best to remain that neighborhood go-to movie spot for locals and movie connoisseurs especially since there are no other immediate local movie store competitors.
“My cell phone number is the number on the sign outside. I’ve had people call me while the store is closed looking to rent a specific movie and I would ask ‘Are you at the store now?’ and if they said yeah I would tell them not to leave and that I would be down there within 10 minutes. I enjoy being that go-to spot for people.”
He believes that his attention to customer satisfaction is partially the reason for his business still standing. Achille said he does his best to find any movie that customers request and recalls tracking down copies of early editions of Friday the 13th horror movies, one of the store’s most popular VHS pickups.
Along with maintaining the wide selection of VHS available for renting and purchasing, the store is also unique in its exterior. Achille had 7 metal stars placed within the cement when Kneen Street was paved over 10 years ago. He planned to do a tribute to longtime customers, but abandoned the idea years back and now the stars remain as part of the landmark.
Staying in any business for over 30 years has been tough, but Achille said his motivation for working to keep the store open comes from seeing the satisfaction on the customer’s faces.
“There’s nothing like it. Movies are similar to music in the sense that watching them or in my case renting and selling them to people can bring you back to a time in history,” said Achille. “Every VHS we have for sale in here is a little piece of history.”
He has recently created a Facebook page, not with the hope of gaining more customers, but to connect with people who want to find the store or are able to share the experiences of visiting at one point in time.
“I get stopped every so often by a person who says they recognize me. I always respond by saying ‘I don’t know, have you ever been to Video 7?’ when their face lights up it brings me back and reminds me why I do this.”
Achille explained that the business is especially meaningful to him because it is right across from where he had his very first job as a child.
“I guess you can say everything came around full-circle. I used to start my paper route across the street, right there on Kneen and Coram. The last stop on my route was my house. It’s kind of crazy to think that this is where I ended up and that we’ve been here so long.”
The store can be reached at 203-924-7777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.