Alaska video store becomes one of last holdouts to close News Staff

BETHEL, Alaska — An Alaska video store that held on for years longer than most of its contemporaries has succumbed to economic pressure and rolled the final credits on its 35-year story.

Video World in Bethel closed Jan. 10, long after streaming services caused the collapse of most video tape rental chains and independent shops nationwide, KYUK-AM reported Friday.

The small business slowed to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic despite its continued will to survive in the Bethel Native Corporation building since opening in 1986.

“I worked, like, 12 hours every day,” Owner Jenny Soo said. “This place has never been painted or changed carpet because we only close Christmas Day.”

Soo and her husband took over the store from her husband’s uncle eight years ago. They met in Hawaii, where she had lived since early childhood when her family arrived in the U.S. from South Korea, and she convinced him to return to his hometown in Alaska.

“I wanted to try something new and had to convince him,” Soo said.

Regardless of COVID-19 lockdowns, the video sales industry has been on the way out because of the popularity of online streaming, even in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta where she said the cost of high-speed internet service is prohibitive.

“I mean, we only lasted this long because the internet, they charge so much,” Soo said.

Soo stopped providing videos to the general public a few years ago, but continued renting to a select group of about 30 people who requested the service, including friend Melissa Valadez.

“Because she trusted us. She knew we were going to return them,” Valadez said.

One of the shop’s struggles was customers who broke or mishandled videos and tried to recoup their money.

Despite the difficult customers, Soo said she liked her regular patrons.

“They stop by and talk story,” Soo said, noting that the conversations and stories were among the things she liked most about operating the store, one of the final holdouts of a completed chapter in film industry history.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The Associated Press

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