Aka the Survival of Top Hat Video
Soon, physical DVDs will be folklore. We’ll be sitting in our hovercraft
couches talking about the “good old days” when you had to choose what movie to
watch on the “television” and “walk” to a “physical store.” But for now, one DVD
rental stores stands strong amidst the tidal wave of digitalized media (I’m looking at
you, Netflix.) Over last week’s Spring Break I worked at a local DVD rental store.
Usually, when I tell someone I work there, their response is similar to “Those still
exists?!?!?” as if you just entrusted them with an infant pterodactyl and told them
they’d been raising it as their own.
This local DVD store in particular has over 31,000 movies for rent, 14
employees, and 35,000 members as a part of its customer base (according to our
website). It’s called Top Hat Video, and it’s anything but dead. In fact, on the
weekend, there’s a line crowded all the way to the end corner of the store, while
kids run around dropping candy on the floor that I’ll vacuum later and parents
analyze what “historical smoking” means in the fine print of the PG movie rating
So, in the age of Netflix and Redbox and pirated movies, how on earth is a
store like this surviving? I’ll admit, I spend an unhealthy portion of my time on
online shopping sites like Amazon.com eternally scrolling through lists of things I
never knew I needed (pore strips, ironic posters and printed socks are among the
few that make the ranks of my shopping problem.) So what in particular is special
about this store; how does it survive?
Most would say it’s due to the customer service. There are only a few
employees, and it feels like family. There is an incredibly loyal customer base that
passes down the tradition of going to the store to their kids. In fact, the “regulars”
are so close to us that I’ve actually been proposed to by several elderly men, which
was uncomfortable but it’s the thought that counts, right? We also carry a wide
range of titles that even Amazon Prime can’t fulfill for the most obscure films and
1920s classics. There’s a rare section where you can rent for 3 dollars movies that
would cost hundreds of dollars to bid for on eBay, and even a few movies refusing t
die out on VHS. And you get rentals for so much longer than any other online
sources, which makes it ideal for binge-watching way too much “How I Met Your
Mother” in your hottest sweatpants.
There’s something undeniably comfortable about online shopping and the
ability to rent movies from your bed. But in the end, what people really enjoy is
human connection, and that’s what makes this store stay insanely busy. Despite the
fact that the digital media age may be the future, Top Hat Video remains as a tiny
testament to local businesses and generally dang good movies. And for now, my
Spring Breaks will continue to be spend happily amongst friends who know what
fictional characters I love as we share Kit-Kats and dust off classic movies.