Video Underground in Jamaica Plain has no business being there — or anywhere else.
Why in the world of Netflix and Amazon Prime would anybody trudge down the street to a brick-and-mortar store that rents out videos? Is that still a thing?
Owner Kevin Koppes believes Video Underground is among the last remaining full-service video-rental stores in Boston. With 10,000 titles, it’s stocked as well as any of those long-gone Blockbuster rental stores. But in keeping with the neighborhood’s eclectic reputation, this shop offers a diverse inventory. There are Disney films aplenty, but also Japanese anime, European art-house fare, postwar Hollywood film noir, and grindhouse horror.
“I don’t really have a typical customer,” said Koppes, 33. “Some people just want family stuff. Some people just want the bloodiest stuff we have.”
Paul Wood, a 51-year-old attorney from Jamaica Plain, browses for the occasional James Bond movie or for a Wes Anderson film. When he first found out about Video Underground, he doubted it had much of a future. “I was hoping he would be able to make a go of it,” he said, “and I guess he has.”
Wood could subscribe to an Internet video-streaming service, but he’d rather not. “It’s like going to a wine shop. I like coming in here and having somebody to talk to,” he said.
Koppes hails from Iowa. He came to town a couple of years ago and began renting videos at the store, which was founded in 2002. When he learned last year that the owners were planning to close, Koppes purchased a majority share of the business and moved it from its previous Hyde Square location to Washington Street.
“We do OK,” Koppes said. “It’s a low-volume, high-profit business.”
His inventory is largely paid for, so most of the fee — $1 a day — makes it to the bottom line.
Koppes is hoping to generate more revenue and more foot traffic when he installs a coffee bar in the next few months.
He also sells old-school VHS videotapes, including oddities that never made the transition to DVD, such as “Even Hitler Had A Girfriend.” “VHS tapes are either worth $30 or worth nothing,” Koppes said.
The Video Underground isn’t an easy shop to find, but that only enhances its best-kept-secret vibe. And if you’re in the mood for some French New Wave cinema, early John Sayles, or a kiddie classic like “Ernest Scared Stupid,” it’s pretty much the only game in town.
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