FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The digital age has claimed a Fort Wayne legacy.
Delmar Video, the family-owned and operated movie and game rental store at 5311 Merchandise Drive, announced it will close Oct. 30 after 34 years in business.
Why? Owner Caroline Davis said it’s a sign of the times.
“It’s hard to out-Walmart, Walmart and out-Internet the Internet,” said Davis, whose father owned the business before her. “We can compete against another video store, but it’s hard to compete against a sofa and a remote control. The trend it is going so digital that we’d like to get out while we’re still on top.”
And Delmar is. With more than 35,000 movies and games for rent or sale in the store, it remains the city’s largest video store – and among the last.
“We saw the laser disc and we saw the battle between VHS and Beta,” said Davis. “Some people didn’t realize the battle between high definition and blue ray.”
Delmar actually began as an Ace Hardware and tool rental shop in 1966. In 1981, the store introduced beta tapes on the floor of the rental department, and Davis said that for several years, a customer could rent a movie and a belt sander in the same check-out.
“The hardware and tool rental business was struggling, and that was when Harvester was going out of Fort Wayne and interest rates were 18 percent,” Davis recalled when asked about the switch from tools to movies. “My dad heard of a new technology that allowed you to watch movies in your house. He actually bought the movies from a movie store going out of business.”
Eventually, the store transitioned to all movies and games all the time, and the customers came in droves. Davis said more than 109,000 customers have held Delmar rental cards over the years.
More recently, though, as cassette tape turned to DVD and DVD turned to digital, the customer base began to shrink, and Delmar was forced to tweaks its business plan. Today, the store runs heavily on a buy-sell-trade concept that has kept it above water.
The writing was on the wall, though, Davis said.
“There is a certain extent where it’s hard to fight reality,” said Davis. “This is a decision we’ve been toying with for several years. We announced (we were closing) last week to our customers because, at some point in business, you have to distinguish between emotions and the best business decision.”
Since that decision was made, Davis said she’s had customers come into the store and show a Delmar card that looked more like a high school yearbook picture it was so dated. One customer, Davis recalled, displayed a card numbered 216 – out of 109,000.
It’s those customers, many so dedicated, that Davis said she’ll really miss when she leaves the only job she’s ever known.
“This has been just so much fun,” said Davis. “When people come in here, it’s their Friday night, it’s their day off. Everybody loves movies and TV shows, so when you’re talking to them, you get to know them. We’ve given a lot of hugs lately and shed a lot of tears.”
Davis, in her mid-50s, said she won’t head into retirement, rather get a “real” job – hopefully somewhere with a similar customer base like Delmar’s, she said.
As for the store itself, Davis said her staff will continue to sell off the stash of thousands upon thousands of movies and games. The family-owned building is also up for sale.
The memories, for Davis and the customers alike, will live on.
“It has meant the world to our family to be here,” Davis said, “but all good things must come to an end.”