The Blockbuster Video in Bend became selfie central Friday as tourists realized they could experience the former chain’s soon-to-be last presence in the U.S.
“It literally has not changed. It’s beautiful,” said Sam Barlow, of Portland, who stopped at the store on his way to Sunriver with his wife, Marie Barlow. The couple hadn’t set foot in a Blockbuster since about 2008, when they were college students in Bellingham, Washington. They don’t own a DVD player, but on Friday they bought three pre-owned movies they might watch over the weekend with friends, plus a box of Junior Mints. And they took a selfie with the Blockbuster sign on the side of the building.
Bend will have the last U.S. Blockbuster store after Sunday, the last day in business for two stores in Alaska. The store is already seen as unique. One young customer raised her arms as she walked past the front counter and declared, “The last in the world.”
That’s not quite right, however, as there are still several Blockbuster stores in Australia, general manager Sandi Harding said.
Harding, who has worked at the local Blockbuster since 2004, spent the day fielding calls from national news outlets. Two other employees, Harding’s 17-year-old son Ryan Harding and Dan Montgomery, were pulled into several photo shoots because of their blue Blockbuster T-shirts.
People are asking for their own T-shirts, and the store is working on making more souvenirs available, Montgomery said.
The local Blockbuster has operated under a licensing agreement with Dish Network since the company closed all of its stores in 2014, Harding said. At that time, the local owner, Ken Tisher, had five stores: three in Bend, one in Madras and one in Redmond, she said. Most of them closed because of lease issues, she said.
The 211 NE Revere Ave. location in Bend is under a lease that has several more years left to run, Harding said. She sees no reason the lease wouldn’t be renewed. The Tishers have operated a video store at that location since 1992, she said.
“I do know we’d be pretty sad if it closed,” regular customer Kimberly Mercer said as she rented movies with her 15-year-old son. The family typically rents “a girl movie, a guy movie and a video game” for the weekend, she said. They stream Netflix and Hulu at home, but those services don’t fill the family’s appetite for movies. “We just kind of like the old-school way of walking around, looking,” she said. “Their customer service here is so nice.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7860, firstname.lastname@example.org