‘It’s bittersweet’: Video rental store to shut its doors after 40 years in business

Glen Fuhl, president and CEO of Video King, is photographed as he organizes shelves in one of his stores in Winnipeg Thursday, March 7, 2024. Fuhl is planning to close up shop after forty years in the movie business. April 6 will be the day he turns off the lights for good. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods. JGW

Glen Fuhl is quick to say he’s not passionate about movies.

But, when an acquaintance approached him with an opportunity to become the owner of Video King, a flourishing independent rental store in a then-rising industry, Fuhl took a chance.

His father had owned his own business and Fuhl knew he would follow in his footsteps.

Decades later, Fuhl knows the business by heart and by the numbers.

He can tell you when the first Blockbuster video rental store opened in Winnipeg, how many copies of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” he sold when the beloved film was released and the number of new theatrical releases last year.

But early next month Fuhl is pressing stop for good on Video King.

“It’s our 40th anniversary, so it’s bittersweet,” Fuhl said in an interview. “We’ve had record days. It’s just sad to say that it’s the end to get these record days.”

Story continues below advertisement

Video King opened its doors in the city’s Transcona neighbourhood in the mid-’80s as the video rental industry was starting to expand across Canada.

For years, the small mom-and-pop shop provided a place for families and movie buffs to peruse the aisles searching for the perfect Friday night flick.

Even as chain rental stores such as Blockbuster and Rogers Video shut their doors in the mid-2000s, becoming victims of streaming services and the digital movie revolution, Video King was able to keep people coming back with its employee expertise and selections.

The store wasn’t without its own setbacks when movie streaming came in, but after a tumultuous few years during the COVID-19 pandemic and a months-long Hollywood strike between actors and writers’ unions and studios, Fuhl saw the writing on the wall.

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

“Hollywood went on strike and that was the nail in the coffin. We went so many months without movies,” he said.

“Now, the strike is settled, but it’s too late. People aren’t coming back. The masses aren’t going to come back to support the business.”

Fuhl used to bring in an average of 36 new movie titles in a month. He said for all of last year, he had 14.

“That’s how bad it was with the strikes,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

The businessman and councillor in the rural municipality of Springfield bought into the business in 1988. It also includes distribution of movies to other vendors, such as convenience stores across the province.

At one point, Fuhl said he was supplying to more than 400 dealers through rural parts of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and northwestern Ontario, where access to high-speed internet isn’t reliable.

Leila Dance, with the area’s business district, recalls hitting up some of these spots during her childhood as a way to pass the time on a rainy night at the lake.

“It wasn’t until I started working for Transcona Biz four years ago that I realized that we were renting videos from Video King. I didn’t realize that the movies that we were getting out at this corner store out at the lake were from him,” said Dance, the executive director of Transcona Biz.

“It was kind of a cool little aha moment.”

Customer Bud Smith estimates more than half of the thousands of movies he owns come from Video King.

“(Fuhl’s) always had B-movies, the classics, your A-list movies. I’ve always been able to get a variety, but he always seems to have the odd one that’s kind of unique or a little bit hard to find,” Smith said in an interview.

Story continues below advertisement

Smith spent hours in the store over the years chatting with employees about new releases and recommendations. It’s those moments that he said he will miss the most.

“They’ve been good to me over the years,” he said.

Inside Video King, yellow paper signs are taped on the shelves with red letters emblazoned across them advertising $5 movies and other discounts.

In the back, movie posters are stacked by the hundreds on pallets. Fuhl has catalogued the 7,500 titles from children’s movies to blockbusters with the hopes of selling off the stock.

When asked if he has kept any for himself, he said the poster from the original “Ghostbusters” hangs in his home.

Fuhl plans to continue the distribution side of the business for now, knowing that it also has a “timeline.”

Video King is set to close its doors on April 6.

Sponsored content