Videots, the video store that has been a fixture on College Avenue for 19 years, will be closing for good on Sunday.

The downward spiraling economy has decimated business, according to Dave Hern, who has worked there for about a year. The store is taking in an average of $100 a day, down from $500 in good times. Videots saw a $20,000 drop in revenues over the past four months as compared to the same period in 2008. “We’re broke. Business has dropped off preciptiously and we can’t pay the bills.”

Owner Don Hussman has tried repeatedly to buy the building, at 2988 College, so as to better control rent, but the owner has not wanted to sell, said Hern.

Customers can rent through Sunday. Those with credit can exchange it for DVDs.

The Berkeley Public Library has purchased the bulkof Videots’ collection, so it will still be available to the public.

Update: 3/1/10: I got a call from Marti Morec, the Collection Development Librarian at the Berkeley Public Library. She said Videot’s had not donated its collection to the library. A call to the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library revealed the collection isn’t going there either. I have tried to contact the owner to clear up the misunderstanding, but no one answers the phone at Videot’s and I have not succeeded in reaching him. When I do, I will clarify what will happen to all those DVDs.

Photo: Tracey Taylor

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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14 Comments

  1. The May edition of the Rockridge News (not yet available online) said that the Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library had purchased Videots’ collection of DVDs, and was in the process of inventorying and tagging them so they could be put on the shelf.

  2. yes – i too have been screwed out of a refund for my credits.

    yes – the local convenience stores are going the way of the dodo, but

    no – it was not cool at all that the owner did not refund the locals who continued to patronize him nor did he offer to exchange dvds or anything to try to resolve the situation in a kosher manner. it was not the customers that made his business go bankrupt, it was those who were NOT his customers. it is too bad that those who were loyal to the store got screwed!

    not cool robin!

  3. Please know the library is NOT buying the Videots’ collection.I was told that by one of the store’s sales clerks but got a call from the library telling me it was not true. I have not been able to track down a phone number for Don Hussman, the store owner, to find out what is going on.

  4. Probably not strictly legal. It really depends on what ultimately happens, I suppose. Someone might be able to go to small claims court, but of course in reality, it’s not worth most people’s time to do so. (Although if anyone out there is really stuck on the priciple of the matter, don’t let me dissuade you!) Nor, I’m afraid, is this likely to get any attention criminally–the Alameda County DA’s consumer fraud unit usually has bigger fish to fry. (Of course, you can always call.)

    Personally, I’m prepared to chalk it up as really lousy behavior by a hypocrite. Maybe karma will bite him.

    (PS — gotta love the fact that I’m paying twice, since those are my property tax dollars the Library is using to buy the Videots collection…)

  5. Like Mr. Wilson above I too had been spending $20-$40 to renew my credits with Mr. Hussman (aka “Mr. Hustle”, apparently) and was completely taken by surprise last week when I stopped in to rent a DVD. Mr. Hussman all but closed his shop overnight without warning, took our money, and ran. How else to see this? And, it was only a few weeks prior that Mr. Hussman encouraged me to apply for more credits – what a scam-artist. I don’t know what recourse we have now as the “send in a post card and I’ll reimburse you with some DVDs” is a joke. The community was doing its best to support this business – a real gem in Elmwood – and deserved classier treatment than this. The younger employees working there were cool and I like going in there. Very disappointing move on Mr. Hussman’s part, and I hope he’s held accountable for running off with our money like this.

  6. Michael: We also found out that Videot’s’ offer to exchange credit for DVDs was not as appealing as it seemed when we tried to make a swap before the store closed. They asked us to mail in a form with details of our credit. Hardly customer-friendly. A sad way to end their relationship with the neighborhood, as you say.

  7. Sadly, Videot’s final act as a self-proclaimed “neighborhood store” appears to be absconding with their neighbor’s money. Contrary to the article, those with store credit were NOT permitted to exchange that credit for DVDs…at least not in any meaningful way. According to the lone employee at the store on Sunday, the entire collection has been sold to the Library. The leftovers — anything the library DOESN’T WANT — will be randomly sent out to people who had credit. That’s right: randomly. Here’s your copy of Heaven’s Gate. And Cheaper By The Dozen 2, and Boat Trip, and every other worst movie ever made. Got pre-schoolers? Here’s your copy of Hellraiser 23. No kids? Here’s your Mickey Mouse Clubhouse video.

    Many neighbors continued to shop at Videots, against their own pecuniary interest, out of some sense of obligation to support local businesses. The most loyal actually had credit there. It is sad to see Videots basically give the finger to the people who were most loyal. It’s not like Videots declared bankruptcy: instead, they’re choosing to sell their inventory and keep their customers’ cash.

  8. Tree: The post did not blame the economy, a Videots employee did. Dave Hern is quoted as saying “the downward spiraling economy” had “decimated business”.

    However, while the economic downturn clearly didn’t help, I imagine your point about changing habits played a significant part in the store’s demise too.

  9. The blog post blames the economy for the demise of a video store. It’s not just the economy and making it sound like the store closing is a result of the economic downturn is a kind of fearmongering. People’s habits for watching movies has changed.

    I haven’t rented a movie in a video store in at least five years . . . even though there was a time when I rented videos in video stores almost daily. Now . . netflix. .. and, lately, I use netflix less and less .. I watch things directly online.

    The world changes quickly. It is a disservice to tell stories that play on people’s fears without reminding them that change is also ordinary and, even, healthy.