Once a Friday night staple and go-to for everything from new releases to neo-noir, the video rental store has long since taken a backseat, fading into Netflix-induced obscurity. The last corporate-owned Blockbuster stores folded in January 2014, the culmination of a years-long decline. And while a handful of independently owned Blockbusters and other independent video shops remain in operation across the U.S., they feel more like museums than anything else—collections of cool, old stuff to gawk at.
It's fitting, then, that Video Fan, a rental shop in Richmond, Va., has been granted nonprofit status. According to Richmond Biz Sense, the independent 30-year-old shop applied for 501(c)(3) designation in March after raising $37,671 from 792 backers on Kickstarter. Andrew Blossom, Video Fan's manager and the mastermind behind its reinvention as a nonprofit, plans to use the store's 40,000-title library to educate the community.
If a video rental store operating as a nonprofit seems odd, it's not without precedent. Via Richmond Biz Sense:
At a time when most video rental stores are going the way of the dinosaur, Blossom said the transition to a nonprofit will ensure that physical video collections are not lost. He said he has learned of only two other video stores that have switched to nonprofits in the country: Scarecrow Video in Seattle and the Vidiots Foundation in Los Angeles. At least one other in Washington may be making a similar transition.
Blossom said the Video Fan will now work to create partnerships with local universities and high schools to allow educators easy access to the video library, which contains many titles that are nearly impossible to find elsewhere, even online.
“Having worked at the Video Fan for six years now, I have spent a lot of time in the store seeing the way in which it is an important space for the community that surrounds us,” Blossom told Richmond Biz Sense. “People use it as a social space; it’s considered part of the fabric of their lives.”
No word yet on whether or not the store will offer 5 lb. tubs of Red Vines as checkout fundraisers, but here's hoping.