After five years of running Bellingen Video Connection seven days a week, Pamela Whitehead and her son Edward Bourke have decided it’s time for a change and have put the business up for sale.
In a world of streaming services where many now get their entertainment via Netflix, Stan, iView and SBS on Demand, Bellingen’s video shop is something of a rarity, still managing to provide what Pamela describes as “a very modest income” for two people.
“It is a bit of a Bellingen institution,” Pamela said. “It’s been going since at least the early 80s, and people just love coming here.”
She admits that not as many people come these days, post the digital disruption, but they do have a loyal fan base who appreciate the eclectic range of DVDs on offer and the personal interactions.
“It’s got an amazing collection, we’ve got over 20,000 titles,” Pamela said. “We actually have a lot of things that aren’t available online, either because they’re very new or they’re very old. Or niche – you can’t get a lot of Australian content online.”
She says people also enjoy the ambience of the store, which features murals by Marcus Lindemann-Walkley, and the opportunity to get personalised suggestions about what’s good to watch.
“People like coming in here. They can ask us, or they’ll overhear someone telling us ‘yeah, that was great’. A lot of strangers just start talking to each other about film. I can think of one couple who actually met in the video shop,” Pamela said.
Edward and Pamela greet people by name and chat to them about what they’re borrowing. They’ve noticed an increase in customers from places like Nambucca and Valla, which no longer have video shops.
Older people who are not comfortable with computers, and parents who prefer to carefully supervise what their children can view, form a significant component of the clientele.
“It is quieter,” Pamela said. “It’s a lot quieter than it was but there’s still a strong demand and affection for it.”
Pamela, a former radiographer, bought the shop in 2013 to provide a job for Edward, who is passionate about film.
He’s not sure what he wants to do next, but thinks a break will give him a chance to figure it out.
Both are keen to see the shop continue in the hands of someone local who will love and cherish it, and Pamela says the asking price of $35,000 is extremely negotiable.
“We’d feel really sad, and so would a lot of people in town, if there wasn’t a video shop any more,” she said.