By Kevin Newhouse
One of my favorite things to do was walk into Video USA not knowing what I wanted to rent. I loved walking up and down the aisles, scanning the endless rows of movies, and waiting to see which one would catch my attention. I loved having conversations with other customers and exchanging recommendations with them. If I couldn’t find a movie on my own, there was always a friendly and honest employee who was happy to offer advice about what to watch and what to stay away from. You can’t get that type of experience from an online streaming service or a DVD vending machine.
That is why I was so sad to hear that after more than 30 years in business, Video USA is officially closing its doors and leaving Aptos without a place to rent movies. I had the honor of being Video USA’s last customer to rent a movie. I didn’t rent a new release. I didn’t take any recommendations. Instead, I decided to rent my favorite movie of all time, The Shining.
Although Video USA is no longer renting movies, they will remain open for the next couple of weeks in order to liquidate their inventory. This is a great opportunity to stock up on your favorite movies at a fraction of the price it would cost to purchase them new. This will also give you an opportunity to stop in and say goodbye to the wonderful staff who kept this place running for so many years. The final day of business is not definitive but they will not be open past April 15.
Cecil Margosian first opened Video USA in 1984 and it has always been located in the Rancho Del Mar shopping center. It opened in its current location where it was for several years, then it was moved to another, smaller space in the center but eventually moved back to its original spot. There was also a second location in the Seascape Village Shopping Center that has been closed for years.
Harvey first contacted me about the store closing just over a month ago. Since then, I have gotten to know him fairly well and it is very clear how much he cares for the customers and his staff.
On Monday, March 20 Harvey threw a party for both current and past employees as a way of formally announcing the store’s closure. As the only non-employee invited to the party, what I noticed was quite beautiful.
I’ve been to plenty of awkward office parties and gatherings but this was not one of those events. It was like a family reunion! One past employee, Lily Schmidt, flew in from England just to be at the party!
Lily’s story sounds like one of the romantic movies from the store. For 11 years, she worked at Video USA, first as a sales associate, and then as the store manager. She met her future husband on a film website. She liked his reviews and started commenting on them. They talked to each other on the site, started tweeting each other, then emailing, and eventually moved on to Skype! They got along so well that she spent 6-months in England to “test the waters” before they decided to get married. Due to U.K. visa regulations, she had to return to the U.S. for 6-months and went back to work at Video USA. Two years ago she returned to England permanently to be with her husband.
I was able to interview most of the current employees over the past few weeks and was impressed by how professional, courteous, and talented these people are.
Manager of the store for the past 10 years, Emilio Menze, will be taking some time off to tour with his band, Stellar Corpses, who I have seen several times, and deserve to be recognized as one of the best bands to have come out of Santa Cruz.
Scott Ekin, a loyal employee for the past 5 years, graduated this past June from the Police Academy (the real academy… not the hilarious 1980’s comedy movie series). A career in law enforcement could be in Scott’s future.
An employee for the past 3 years Stephanie Kashino, has studied culinary arts and baking at Cabrillo College. She would love to work in an established bakery either in Santa Cruz or somewhere in the Bay Area. She also has her office work certification so medical billing may also be an option for her.
Benjamin Sanchez has been an employee for just over a year and a half. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy where he spent four years working on the fight deck of an aircraft carrier in aircraft recovery, which could be an 18-21 hour per day job.
The thing they all will miss most about working at Video USA… the connection made with the customers. Emilio talked about how special it has been to see generations of kids growing up. He explained, “When they first came in, they couldn’t even see over the counters. Now they are all grown up, driving around and some are even taller than me.”
Stephanie grew up in Aptos and was a customer of Video USA for many years before becoming an employee. She agrees with Emilio and will miss chatting with the customers and hopes to continue to see those familiar faces around town.
Harvey asked me to keep this article about the employees, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much the employees love and respect him. Not just as a boss, but as a friend. He genuinely cares for each of his employees and has helped shape them into the wonderful, hardworking, individuals they are today. Many have mentioned how they plan on staying in contact with him and want to be part of his life even after the store closes.
I will definitely miss the movie rental experience that Video USA provided. I will also miss the personal attention you get with this local, small business. Thank you for being part of Aptos for so many years. You will be missed.
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