Louisiana video store among last in America; offers 35,000 titles

Louisiana video store among last in America; offers 35,000 titles


When Steve Chambliss and his family opened their National Video Superstore in West Monroe, Louisiana, 20 years ago, it took six employees running registers simultaneously to keep up with the traffic.

The 6,000-square-foot store had a flashing theater-like marquee, movie-themed carpet, a 5-foot-tall Gumball Wizard Spiral machine and wall-to-wall titles, still mostly VHS tapes at the time. (Remember the rewind fees for slacker customers who returned their movies unwound?)

“It was booming,” Chambliss said. “It was still the heyday of the video rental store.”

Those were the days when there were more than 27,000 video rental stores in America, and Blockbuster alone operated 9,000 of them.

Today, the stand-alone video store is as rare as a phone booth.

Consumers shifted to streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon or video-on-demand rental options from their cable companies without ever leaving their couches.

Only one Blockbuster store remains, in Bend, Oregon.

“The glory days are gone,” Chambliss said.

One customer wandered into Chambliss’ store this week and acted as if she’d stumbled through a time portal. “I didn’t know places like this still existed,” she said.

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Juan Perez, 4, watches a giant gumball spiral through the Gumball Wizard.

The West Monroe National Video store is among the last stand-alone video rental stores in America, a dinosaur battling extinction.

“I think we’re the last one in Louisiana, but I can’t be completely sure,” Chambliss said. “My buddy says I should charge a museum fee.”

Though consumer spending on home entertainment rose to a record $25.2 billion in 2019, video rental stores accounted for a minuscule $250 million of that amount, according to the Digital Entertainment Group.


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