Arts & Life, Features

The last video store in Long Beach is fighting to stay open amid the coronavirus pandemic

When Broadway Video opened its doors 40 years ago, the war for dominance between video home entertainment stores ended with streaming platforms, but the store continued to thrive until the coronavirus pandemic hit.

When you walk past the Broadway Video Store the sharp color blast of the "Women Women 1984" poster will draw your attention, usually, but the GoFundMe poster is the headliner to create awareness of the imminent closing if the store doesn&squot;t meet their goal of $20,000.
The GoFundMe poster stands among movie posters at Broadway Video, raising awareness about the stores pressing financial challenge.

Orders to close nonessential businesses forced owner Steve Tsepelis to temporarily close the store for three months to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from March 12 to June 15 last year, but now, he’s been forced to set up a GoFundMe page to prevent the store from closing its doors permanently.

For the past 28 years, Tsepelis has worked in the store as a manager until he bought it in 2017 from Tom Bailey and Carl Detweiler, who previously owned the store.

Tsepelis said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to purchase the store.

“There’s a big passion for that video store, and that’s why I bought it three years ago, to save it,” Tsepelis said. “The owners were going to close it because they wanted to retire and people were like, ‘No, no, no, you can’t close this place.’ That’s hard to carry around with you and I’m always like, ‘No, don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere.’ But I can’t really say that with confidence these days, back to them.”

The Broadway Video store launched a campaign fundraiser to raise $20,000 in order to remain to open.
The Broadway Video store launched a campaign fundraiser to raise $20,000 in order to remain to open. Photo credit: Jorge Villa

As of Thursday, Broadway Video’s GoFundMe has reached over $3,000, but is still far from its $20,000 goal.

“I sit, and I make sure I write thank you to every single person because I really do appreciate it,” Tsepelis said. “And just like I said, I’m pulling out all the stops trying to keep the space going right now because it is one of the last video stores in Long Beach.”

Tsepelis has stated that he has received small loans of $10,000 from the city at the beginning of the shutdown but said it’s not enough to cover three months rent on top of the current rent.

Though Long Beach has shifted into the orange tier, Tsepelis said some regulars have not come back since they opened. Others have said that they didn’t know the store was open.

During the time the store was closed, Tsepelis knew he had to make some changes, so he reactivated his dormant social media channels, especially Instagram, in hopes of connecting with customers.

One of the connections Tsepelis made was with the Fourth Horsemen, a pizzeria in Long Beach known for its horror-themed pizzas.

“We wanted to cross-promote with them and a couple of coffee shops and try to get some new things going and get the buzz going again,” Tsepelis said.

Tsepelis is also pursuing yoga classes hosted by instructor Matthew Purpura in the morning before the store opens its regular operational hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

“I kind of modernized it a little bit, but kept the essence of the old video store, you know, I started putting new fixtures that are on wheels to move them because of the yoga classes,” Tsepelis said.

When Tsepelis is not in the store, he is running errands like picking up mail orders of movies or movie posters and going to Smart and Final to buy candy to place on the shelf fixtures across the cashier counter.

Phil Deubal and Steve Tsepelis are the face of Broadway Video in Long Beach located on Retro Row when you first walk inside.
Phil Deubel and Steve Tsepelis are the face of Broadway Video in Long Beach, located on Retro Row. Photo credit: Jorge Villa

Inside Broadway Video, manager Phil Deubel greets guests as they push against the turnstile in the entrance. The store has 25,000 titles according to Tsepelis, ranging from new releases like “Wonder Woman” and international films like “Mother” from Academy Award-winner Bong Joon-Ho.

“I love the community, I love the selection, the people I work with, it’s just it’s a very nice environment,” Deubel said. “And yeah, if the pandemic showed us one thing it’s that people want, every once in a while, some great movies, something for the soul.”

Customers like Dan and Lana Johnson come to the store to rent their favorite shows like “Game of Thrones” and “The Wire.”

“We’ve made it a point every time and we at least come down here and spend more money because we want to see these places still,” Dan Johnson said. “Yeah, I don’t want to see them go like the Blockbuster Video.”

Tsepelis said that he recognizes the changes he is making to the video store will not reflect the price to rent a movie, which has not changed for over 20 years: $3.25 for three days.

Broadway Video’s slogan on Instagram reads, “Don’t settle for what’s streaming.”

According to Tsepelis, there is a meaning behind that.

“There’s no junk in our store, it’s all quality stuff,” Tsepelis said.

Broadway Video is staying open later on Fridays and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Yoga classes at the store are held on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. 

A correction was made on April 12 at 2:07 p.m. to correct a misspelled name.

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