Annie Solan, co-owner with her husband Barry of Video Americain, the three-store video and DVD chain, said that their iconic outlet in Charles Village will be closing for good in two weeks—July 15, to be exact.
The store’s incredible archive is marked down 35 percent for sale and has been moving out the door for weeks, but much remains, Solan said, Thursday afternoon. “We have a lot of really good DVDs and VHS left, maybe 100 from the Criterion Collection, 500 other DVDs of foreign films, at least a 1,000 in our ‘genre’ categories, and another 200 ‘classics,’” reported Solan. “We also haven’t put out our other stuff, we probably have a 1,000 out-of-print movies we had been renting.” The Video Americain store on Cold Spring Lane and the one in Takoma Park will remain open, Solan said. I didn't want to ask for how long.
While certainly not happy to shutter one of their stores, Solan said she was pleased at least that so many films had found “good homes.” She noted nearby Johns Hopkins bought 2,100 films from the store for the school's library collection.
“We have had great, loyal customers over the years and a knowledgeable, caring staff that built and preserved our archive,” Solan said. “The store and its staff educated many young people as they moved into the neighborhood about film,” she added. “You know, someone would come in, and our employees would say, ‘If you like that film, you might like this,’ or, ‘You might like this director, too.’’ Not to mention there was always some kind of cool flick playing on the T.V. at the counter.
At one time, Solan said, the Charles Village location was the most profitable of their three outlets, but sales had dropped precipitously over the past four years. “Downloads, cable, video-on-demand, Netflix, you name it,” she said. “I’ve called it, ‘death by a thousand cuts.” Baltimore's Max Weiss wrote about throwback Video Americain's battle to stay relevant in the face of technology (May/2008) several years ago.
For many who live, or have lived in Charles Village, as I did for years, the passing of Video Americain marks the loss of a beloved institution. Errands Saturday afternoon—or Tuesday evening—usually meant a walk to Eddie’s Market on St. Paul St., maybe picking up dry cleaning next door, but always a stop across the street at Video Americain. If nothing else, to check the community bulletin board inside to see what bands were playing where, or, this being Charles Village, what political rally was being organized next.
“So bummed you guys are closing—the end of era,” Jason Haza wrote on their Facebook page when the closing was announced earlier this spring.
“Never have so many wonderful people and things been found in a Charles Village basement,” added Alix Tobey Southwick.