Popular Berkeley Video Store Closes

By Dan McMenamin(BCN)
Saturday July 17, 2010 - 03:20:00 PM

A popular video rental store in Berkeley closed its doors for good this week after fighting to stay in business when its parent company filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. 

Reel Video, located at 2655 Shattuck Ave., shut down for good on Monday. In the past couple of months, store officials had reached out to the community to try to raise thousands of dollars to stay afloat. 

Jenny Woolsey, an employee at the store, said three auditors for prospective investors came to the store Monday, and after looking at the inventory of more than 80,000 movies - many of which are rare or decades old - they suddenly announced that the store was closing. 

The closing of the store had been looming after its parent company, Movie Gallery, Inc., which operates the Hollywood Video chain of stores, filed for bankruptcy in February. 

The company purchased Reel Video more than a decade ago, but the store had sought to maintain an independent feel by focusing on older, hard-to-find movies rather than new releases. That approach attracted many movie lovers, as well as film students at the nearby University of California at Berkeley. 

Woolsey said the closing "was kind of a shock to everyone. We had no idea it was going to happen that fast." 

Store officials were trying to raise at least $200,000 to buy the business back from its parent company before it was liquidated and closed. At least $50,000 had been pledged to the effort, but it ultimately could not be saved. 

"We had been working so hard...getting investors, getting donations, then to just find out that we had closed, and not even getting a call from corporate headquarters, it was a blow," Woolsey said. 

She said most of the store's inventory has already been taken away. 

"It's pretty much just a shell," she said. "We're still all really bummed out about it." 

Woolsey said the store's workforce of more than a dozen people are now looking for other jobs. 

"It sucks we lost our jobs, it's not cool, but I feel the real detriment is to the community to lose that many movies, including some most likely that they'll never find again," she said. 

Woolsey said the investors plan to use the inventory of videos to open a new store elsewhere, but she did not know where or when that would happen.