Treasure Coast Blockbuster stores closing, marks the end of an era

TREASURE COAST, Fla. - Carol Goss rarely sets foot in a video store — but there she was Thursday, flipping through DVDs at the Blockbuster in Stuart.

She grabbed copies of "New York I Love You," and "Elizabeth I."

She plucked up "Love in the Time of Cholera" and "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

Goss wasn't there to rent the movies — that was not even an option. The store halted rentals a month ago.

She was buying them at a deep discount. Everything is for sale at the store, even the long shelves the DVDs sit on.

The Stuart store and another Blockbuster in Port St. Lucie are among 300 locations closing around the country. Dish Network, which bought Blockbuster out of bankruptcy in 2011, announced the closures in late January.

The last day of business in Stuart is April 7. In Port St. Lucie, it's March 23.

About 3,000 people will lose their jobs as part of the nationwide closures — about 40 percent of its workforce.

Becky Council is among them.

Council, a single mother of two (including a special-needs child), manages the Stuart store while going to school full-time. She accepted the job in October, after searching for work for months.

She had no idea the gig would be so short-lived.

"I get a little frustrated when customers say, ‘What am I supposed to do now? Where will I get my movies?' I just look at them and say, ‘We're all out of jobs,'" the 30-year-old told me.

"There are many other options for them to get their movies — whereas the options for jobs is very slim," she said.

Before I talked to Council and her colleagues, I intended to write a flippant column about Blockbuster closing. I thought the most newsworthy thing was that the local stores had survived this long in the first place.

I haven't rented a movie from a Blockbuster store for almost a decade. My movies arrive with a click of the remote control or computer mouse — or, occasionally, in little red envelopes in the mail.

For better or worse, Blockbuster stores have become an anachronism in this "on demand" era.

That doesn't make the store closures any less painful for the workers who will lose their jobs.

Carol Brady, manager of the Port St. Lucie store, said she and her fellow employees aren't getting severance, but they do expect to be eligible for unemployment compensation.

She, like Council, also has a child with special needs. Her husband is disabled, too.

Brady has no idea where she will find work.

"Things are kind of bleak around here, aren't they?" she said.

Brady pointed out that losing video stores also means losing yet another chance to interact with people in our community.

"Myself, I don't like going up to a little box. I don't like using the ATM machine. I like going into the bank and seeing the people," she said.

When I visited the Stuart store on Friday, the employee behind the counter, Edward Cascardo, gave movie advice to almost every customer who walked through the door.

Inevitably, movie chatter led to broader conversations about politics and culture.

"We're a dying breed, unfortunately," Cascardo said.

Then he ushered me to the children's movie section, where I picked up "Where the Wild Things Are" and the 1964 version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

I bought both for $10.

My 4-year-old son might not ever set foot in a Blockbuster, but at least he will know what DVDs were.

Eve Samples is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects her opinion. Contact her at 772-221-4217 or eve.samples@scripps.com.


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