May 4, 2020
The last operating Blockbuster Video store in the world in Bend, Ore., has survived Netflix, over-the-top video and transactional VOD. Now it’s facing another challenge that has nothing to do with technology.
When Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on March 23 ordered social distancing measures statewide to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, Blockbuster was deemed non-essential and closed for a week.
Store GM Sandi Harding and the store’s 15 employees proactively addressed COVID-19 by instituting one-way aisles and mandatory six-feet spacing between customers allowed into the store.
Harding said that when the store became the last standing Blockbuster, it had about 6,000 customer accounts on top of tourists who frequent the place for nostalgia and history. Most of the store’s DVD/Blu-ray Disc rental customers live in the area.
“We’re going to be here for a while, we’ve dealt with these kinds of challenges, not the coronavirus, but we’ve dealt with all kinds of things throughout this whole thing,” Harding told Fox Business. “Everybody knows our story, and we don’t give up easy. So we’re going to definitely go down with a fight like every other small business in America.”
Considering Blockbuster at one time had more than 9,000 stores, $1 billion in revenue and had Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings offering to sell Blockbuster his upstart by-mail disc rental company, the Bend store is a testament to small business survival.
“I just ordered in some floormats, you know, because right now we have blue tape down,” Harding said. “I mean, I love these kids that work for me and our customers and the whole reason we’re here is because, you know, these people enjoy coming to our store and I don’t want it to not be safe.”