The last video rental shop on Capitol Hill has closed

Employees Chris Hirinig and Will Corr help out customers in 2010 (Image: Clara Ganey for The Spectator with permission to CHS)

Employees Chris Hirinig and Will Corr help out customers in 2010 (Image: Clara Ganey for The Spectator with permission to CHS)

Fire Station 7 has been home to a lot of movies -- and a lot of history (Image: Seattlest)

Fire Station 7 has been home to a lot of movies — and a lot of history (Image: Seattlest)

It’s difficult to believe it lasted this long — and that there’s not a bar or restaurant entrepreneur or three chomping at the bit to turn an old Capitol Hill firehouse into their next food+drink venture.

On an afternoon of celebration for its neighborhood at the 15th Ave E Sidewalk Festival, On 15th Video announced it had closed down its more than two decade-old movie rental business:

Dearest Customers,

It is with great sadness that we share with you that our ownership has made the extremely difficult decision to close our beloved video store, effective immediately.

Speaking on behalf of the employees, some who have worked at On 15th Video for more than 14 years, we want to say how very sorry we are that we can’t continue to provide quality home video for this wonderful community here on Capitol Hill.

We like to believe that this store, for close to 25 years, provided more than just a place to pick a movie for the evening. Unlike a vending machine, it was a place where you could discuss film and TV with people who really enjoyed it, both customers and employees. It was a place you could walk inside and browse for an hour and find something new and weird or have something recommended to you that you would have otherwise never had a chance to see. We’re very sorry to say that this is a service that cannot easily be replaced and we will truly miss providing it to you.

Thank you again for of your patronage and efforts in keeping us alive for as long as you did. We love you all very much!

– Will, Chris, JennaRose, Warren, Adam, Bruce & Keith

The business has been part of the street for more than 25 years but joins a steady procession of movie rental shops pressing eject across Capitol Hill — and in every other city in the country and the world — as online services have grown and automated vending machines have taken over. We’ll check in with On 15th owners Barbara Carver and Karen Puzzo to see if we can learn more. This spring, popular On 15th Video manager Steve Mandich died suddenly at the age of 44.

UPDATE 9/13/14: CHS has found state records that clarify the current ownership of On 15th. Carver and Puzzo are past owners, according to the state. The current owner is a company headed by William Carlysle Holmes. His family has owned On 15th Ave since the 1990s and he had planned to purchase Scarecrow Video:

William Carlysle Holmes’ family owns Directors Ltd., the company purchasing Scarecrow. Holmes was convicted in 1993 of defrauding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) of nearly $1 million through his company, Trustee Services. The company had been contracted to collect money on foreclosures on HUD-owned property.

Carl Tostevin and John Dauphiny eventually stepped in to buy Scarecrow, instead. In 2014, Scarecrow reorganized as a non-profit.

On 15th’s home building was also a big part of its charm. Seattle historian Rob Ketcherside wrote about the old Fire Station 7 here:

Fire Station 7 opened at the corner of 15th and Harrison in 1920. After being surplused it reopened in 1970 as “Earth Station 7”, housing several community and environmental groups. The sign on the wall of the 2010 photo shows their impact – “40 years designing seeds of change” for the group Environmental Works.

In 2010, Environmental Works marked “40 years of sustainable architecture and planning” and the group continues to own the 1920-built building that was the onetime home of Capitol Hill Housing and The Country Doctor Clinic in their early days.

On 15th Video’s closure marks the end of its kind on Capitol Hill. We’re not currently aware of another dedicated movie rental business operating in meatspace in the neighborhood. Most recently, Broadway Video also gave up the ghost after 30 years of business. Previously, big chains like Hollywood Video disappeared in the dark of night or, like Blockbuster, went out with a long, painful epilogue.

The end of the business also continues the turnover of spaces along the 15th Ave E commercial village where longtimers like The Canterbury have undergone major upgrades or experienced the end of their times on the blocks. Newcomer Sur 16 will replace the old Bagel Deli this fall, and Nuflours is building a new cafe in the 85-year-old bakery space it took over on the street.

Meanwhile, SIFF is busily readying Capitol Hill’s Egyptian Theatre for a return to film venue action starting in October.

There are no current permits on file for any construction projects at the video store’s address.

UPDATE: The Seattle Public Libraries, when open, provide one last significant source of hard copy rental options:

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62 thoughts on “The last video rental shop on Capitol Hill has closed

  1. Thanks Will etc al. I had as much fun talking shit in the store as I did taking home the films. I enjoyed your run.

    Dibs on the Jarmusch section.

  2. Pingback: Video Store Death Knell: On 15th Video | The-Solute

    • A lot of people, actually. Redbox & streaming services don’t have enough selection, you can’t be spontaneous with Netflix, and indie brick-and-mortar video stores are great for browsing.

      I’m so sad about this. Not only do I use 15th Ave Video all the time, but I’d much rather have a diverse group of businesses in the neighborhood – not just restaurant after restaurant after restaurant.

      I was hoping independent video stores would be the next hipster trend, but it appears that’s not to be.

      • Online streaming services offer millions of movies. A box store would have to be 10x larger than a Costco to compete on that level. Spontaneity? Every online movie database offers random recommendations to compliment your tastes. Didn’t find what you were looking for on Netflix? Try Amazon on-demand. Still didn’t find what you were looking for? Gray-net gives you what you want in minutes. The digital world has upgraded the rental industry in almost every conceivable way. All that’s left of the physical medium is nostalgia and bad habits (I’m looking at you redboxers). Successful nostalgic entertainment has to provide an irreplaceable experience. Maybe for you, inserting a dvd into your player and watching 20 minutes of unskippable trailers is that, but most are glad to leave that world behind them.

      • One major disadvantage of your proposals is that the exclusivity of availability from online markets means paying around $10 to numerous different websites in order to have access to a regular selection, and paying into sites like Amazon means giving them an increasing amount of discretion into what you are allowed to see (much like they are already doing with their restrictions on which book publishers they will carry).

      • Amazon on-demand isn’t something you have to subscribe to. It’s a pay to watch service (Exactly like a rental store). If you don’t like their selection, just find another on-demand rental service (just like video stores). I just happen to use amazon as an example.

        As far as subscription based services, it definitely makes sense to only subscribe to one (or none) and on-demand the rest. I rarely spend over $20 a month on my movie consumption and still end up watching a film or tv series every other night. I’m sure mileage varies, but I can’t conceive of why anyone needs physical media these days, besides those outside the internets.

      • Here’s the thing: While Amazon is physically my neighbor, they are not my neighbor in a friendly way like the family down the hall. The Hill’s independent film rental places were. I’d rather support them than a faceless corporation, or more correctly, them and the corporation.

      • Sad to hear of the closing. My DVD player automatically skips trailers to the movie and loads very quickly. My Blu Ray player has a significantly better picture and the hi-def audio is phenomenal compared to cable downloads I have tried. Some people like physical media and the quality and
        don’t want to spend a lot on high speed internet or cable for an occasional movie.

    • I used to rent from video stores all the time. There’s so many things that are out of production or not available to buy or stream from Netflix.

    • Unfortunately, some of us live in areas without internet speed to support streaming. The Century Link 3 Mbps just doesn’t cut it. Yes we subscribe to Netflix, but if we wanted something the same day, we went to on 15th Video.

    • I do, in fact I was at this DVD store the other month when researching a story. They didn’t have what I was looking for. So I’m stuck w/the library (which isn’t too bad, they have a great selection). I don’t do Netflix because I considered it a waste of money (you get charged whether you rent anything or not), plus I don’t want to have to sit at my computer to watch a movie via streaming. I like having the physical media.

  3. This is very sad. Sometimes it is really nice to be able to go into a store and have an interaction with a person outside of your normal circle, and these options are quickly disappearing.

  4. When I lived in the neighborhood (from 2002-2005) On 15th and Sonic Boom were my favorite places. I must have rented almost everything in their UK section during those years. Was in town this March and stopped by just to stroll around the shelves again. Glad I did. A big thank you to everyone who kept On 15th going as long as it did, it will be missed.

  5. I remember when I first moved to Seattle, unemployed, and spent a number of rainy days binge-watching ‘The Sopranos’, rented from this video store. Before binge-watching was really a term. Many days, I don’t think I would have even gone out had it not been to grab more videos.

    I haven’t been back in years, and every time I walked by I thought about how tough the business must be in this day and age. But it is still sad to see them go, and I wish they were still around for people to enjoy the staff recommendations and cult classics sections.

  6. So sad to this place go, I have been a member for over five years. I will always have memories of this place. Like how my wife and I would come in and she would pick some artsy fartsy movie trying to impress the hot employee in hopes of luring them into a threesome with us. The whole way home she would be begging to go back and ask.

  7. So sorry to read this…Intelligent and friendly employees, fantastic selection, and a neighborhood business.

    The bookstores that once made Capitol Hill a great place to wander, the video stores…oh sigh

    I’m not looking forward to living in an online world.

  8. I feel bad for the workers and it’s a little sad for nostalgia’s sake. But this is a cool building and I’ve honestly been waiting for something to move in that is more personally useful. I used to go here back in the early 2000’s before competing video options became cheaper and easier. It’s a sign of the times.

    I’m hoping for a cafe etc. that makes a patio out of the front parking spaces. That’s a nice sunny little area.

  9. Pingback: CHS Pics | A sidewalk festival on 15th Ave E | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  10. this is devastating! i highly doubt the employees knew about this either – i went in 3-4 times a week, and so did my family, and BAM! it’s closed. What about reaching out to the community for help?? THIS STORE is what helped make community and keep things LOCAL on east capitol hill… i’m just heartbroken… i met and ran into SO many folks there and LOVED talking to everyone who worked there. I don’t understand why we can’t come together as a community and figure out a way to save this place.

    • So well said! I couldn’t agree more! We went all the time, my entire family, the employees were a part of our community and we also loved to talk to them and see what they had on the screen for their favorites of the day. Why didn’t they reach out to the community! They would have amazed at the outpouring had they done so!

  11. Sad indeed, I used to come here all the time, but the rental business ain’t what it used to be. I only hope something decent comes in there to replace it. 15th probably already has enough bar/restaurants, maybe something new and different?

  12. I lived on 16th and Harrison in a duplex from the 1997 to 2007. My mom would let me walk the 1 block by myself as an 8 year old (1998) with $5 or so cash to rent a movie (remember the Tuesday 2 for 1 deal?). The guys at the counter would always call my mom and ask her if the movie I had chosen was alright for me to rent. One of the employees, (short haired woman with glasses and usually had colored hair) had our home number memorized and even when my brother and I were past 13 would jokingly ask if she needed to call our mom for permission to rent a PG 13 rated movie. I have some great memories of that place. Really hope that beautiful old building will be protected and not torn down.

  13. Devastating news. What a great, great store. I’ve been thinking this may be the outcome when their hours were suddenly cut on the 1st and no new releases last week. Really great crew there, too. I’ll miss Will’s Criterion advice.

  14. I am soooo bummed- sure, online is faster and may have a more popular selection, but so many times I got something that was a staff favorite, or was next to something else I was looking for, or was in an oddball section online definitely doesn’t have. And the folks working there! every one so knowledgeable, friendly and real- no cookie-cutter corporate-trained into clone-like simulacra perkies, but genuine folks you could share a passion with. I loved having it as a destination, reason to get out for that after-dinner walk, a neighborhood errand when all that’s left is groceries, pharmacy, cleaner and hardware. I loved getting those phone calls! Video on hold! Just for me! I was GLAD to pay the little extra for the privilege of having such a gem still nearby. Does anyone seriously think we need another yoga studio, coffee shop, restaurant or hair/nail salon? I just can’t understand how going out to eat 4 nights a week is a trade-off on any level for having the variety and resource of mixed retail, and why folks who are so glad to do that can’t get off their ass and spend less than a cup of that fancy coffee to this kind of place alive. RIP 15th, and thank you, each and every one of you there, for being so great.

  15. I’m heartbroken to hear this news as well — like many other commenters, I valued having a physical place to go into, run into neighbors, browse based on physical items rather than an endless screen, hear what employees have liked during the year, have things grab my eye that might not otherwise, etc. etc. I’m online already enough as it is. I’m not a fan of streaming which, to me strikes up images of lower quality and pixelation, certain movies/shows not being available from certain subscription services when you want to watch them, lack of bonus features, no previews. In contrast, on 15th meant exercise walking briskly up the hill, employees who had fun mashing up film posters, and chatting with neighbors about what they were getting and had liked recently. I’d love to see someone pick up this business…

  16. My kids will be so bummed to learn this, but the blow will be softened by the fact that we probably get to keep The Lego Movie. The employees seemed to be in especially high spirits on Saturday…I hope they weren’t too blindsided with the news.

  17. If there is even a hint that this charming building will be torn down, for any reason, then we must man the barricades and stop it from happening. I realize this possibility has not come up….yet….but it might.

    • Project #1234567

      Sugimura Tower

      Construction of an 85 foot tall building containing 630 micro units averaging 55 square feet per unit.

      No parking to be provided.

      Parking for 500 bicycles on site.

      Ancor businesses: Baby Gap and Applebee’s

      Existing potential landmark firehouse to be demolished…………………………

      Comments? Don’t bother. The City isn’t listening.

      • with a forest of antennas on the roof for all those people wanting the so-called convenience of streaming their videos instead of popping a piece of vinyl into the disc player the old fashioned way.

  18. From my Facebook……..@ matty boy…not really, dealing coke and selling Houle Porn was still legal then, funniest thing ever about on 15th was we were the first place for Porn up there, we charged 5 bucks a day and late fee’s, it was awesome. I remember one Sunday working in the am and threw on a a returned porno ….mid 80’s….. forgot it was on all the monitors and kept checking and rewinding films like you did in the day. about 20 min before opening Mom calls and says 5 neighbors have stopped by or called to let me know you have the full on porn rolling on all the monitors that everyone could see on 15th ! Mom was super not happy but holy shit that was funny……John Carver

  19. I have been a customer for about 15 years. This was a great store and a place to have personal contact with other customers and workers. I especially loved Jenna Rose who had great commentary about any movie you asked about.

    Thank you On 15th. I will miss you dearly.

  20. I too am devastated by the closure of this valuable community, cultural resource. 2 guys from Silver Platters, http://www.silverplatters.com/rel/v2_home.php?storenr=215&deptnr=8 which bought out On 15th video inventory, were in the store today taking it all out. My first impulse is to organize some investors to start up a new, cooperative, non-profit video rental shop on CH, which would feature only highly rated films (NYT, The New Yorker, Sundance, Cannes, Golden Globe, film fest jury awards, etc). Anyone with serious interest, please contact me at cxvaez@gmail.com.

  21. Figured I would add another comment of mourning. I sadly have been wondering for a few years when the new, modern world of convenience and internet streaming would cause this place to close. Between Netflix and Amazon, hopefully we’ll never have to leave our homes ever, ever again… Except, of course, to meet up with our internet-induced-aspergers friends at the variety of cafes, bars, bistros and restaurants available to us here in the lovely city of Condomineattle.

    Sarcastic bitterness aside, my condolences to the owners and employees. Those of who frequented the store will certainly miss you very, very much. Thank you for everything xo

  22. I loved this place. I’m all for internet convenience, but when just out for a weekend/weeknight and wanting to browse, it was the best. Always rented as much as could be watched in a week, paid any overage because I was lazy. The thing I don’t get is how the regular patronage I always saw was not enough to sustain the business? Was it rent increases, less customers, new owners, all of the above? Several people I know have talked about happily supporting a place like this in a co-op or other format. Kickstarter?

  23. I wonder if there was any effort made to join up w/ Scarecrow- think of it: having Scarecrow’s inventory available on the Hill, a non-profit model, everyone could have kept their jobs. I love Scarecrow, but rarely go- too far! hard to park!

    Lots of good ideas for collectives, etc- but would like to hear from the owners about what they tried, and what tipped the scale this way. Count me in for crowdfundings, etc.

  24. Our family is very sad about this.. actually the kids were in tears. We went there most weekends to find a movie and stumbled on many interesting gems through random browsing. We loved walking there in the evening and fanning out to seek out and debate ideas for the night’s selection. It is irreplaceable. So sorry. Really a loss.

  25. This truly sucks. Even with access to Netflix, Xbox Video, Amazon, Vudu, and the rest, it was still fun to go to the little firehouse and rent indie movies and employee favorites whenever I wanted to. Where else could I indulge snow day cabin fever by renting an entire season box set of a TV show for $5? Definitely NOT Netflix.

  26. I just purchased a block of 30 movies for $125 two weeks ago. Does anyone know if they are reimbursing people on these promotions or just taking the money and running?

    • Get your credit card company to reverse the charge – they sold you a product and didn’t deliver. You’ll likely get credit for the amount. Sorry the owner didn’t have what it takes to provide contact information to deal with this sort of thing. I suspect he/they knew what was coming but were perfectly willing to take our money anyway. Sorry to disrupt the nostalgia ….

      • Thanks Joan. I foolishly paid cash and never got a receipt. I sent a polite letter to the address on record:

        William Carlysle Holmes
        Directors Ltd.
        3220 NE 125th St.
        Seattle, WA 98125-4272

        September 17, 2014

        Dear Mr. Carlysle,

        I arrived at your store – On 15th Video – last night to find it closed for good. I’m sorry for any difficulties this may cause you – I know your store was well loved in the community and I had just started to become a regular customer.

        In fact, approximately 2 weeks earlier, I had just purchased a block of 30 DVD rentals for $125. I suspect that at the time of purchase, you may have already been considering closing the shop as rarely does a business owner make such decisions spontaneously. In any case, I was not notified of this impending possibility, and I had only used 1 out of the 30 movies on my block, making it a very expensive rental.

        Please save us both the inconvenience in time and hassle of me having to serve you with small claims court papers and refund me the unusued portion of my movie block.

        You can mail a check to my address:

        p.s. I would appreciate a phone call acknowledging my letter and your intent to make good on my purchase of undelivered services. I can be reached at 206.860.5009.

        Someone actually called me back – from an office. He told me a song and dance story about how sorry they were and it was so sudden, and there are no assets (this, the day after I read that they had sold all there inventory to Silver Platters). These guys definitely have money in another business, but it’s the old capitalist game of taking the money and running. Nostalgia indeed.

      • p.s. a lawyer friend advised me that in this sort of situation, small claims court is probably a waste of time (and money)…even if I were to win a judgment, there is no way to enforce it, and they can just ignore it with impunity apparently.

  27. I think I’ve answered my own question after reading the article of the owner’s criminal history. I wonder how many other customer’s got screwed this way. Any ideas on where to file a claim appreciated. Thank you.

  28. and when you consider all the restored handcrafted 1900s housing being torn down also- to be filled with artificial living, for plastic, superficial people, it is sad

    Capitol Hill has lost its soul to the MONEY reptiles

  29. Pingback: Sorting out the drama — and the comedy, cult and action — at On 15th Video | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  30. It’s about browsing. And finding someone whom you trust to ask ‘is it good?’ (trust because they are tried and true).
    The browsing online is just not the same. If I don’t know what I want to watch, I’m much more likely to be satisfied after I watch a pick from the store rather than from netflix, etc.
    Same with my kids: they browse the large family section at On 15th and find something they never would have found/picked online.
    In this way, spontaneity is better in the physical store; spontaneity in the choice of movie.
    So so sad. I thought they were doing OK.

  31. To the On 15th Video Team, you were wonderful – 10 years of fun with you, great recommendations, helping confused sleep deprived parents find things for the kids or for ourselves. Many non-standard greats available that would not have been found at chain video stores, not on the net, or if so crummy results as noted above. Kind of the video store of Elliott Bay books. Wishing you bright futures and hoping the memories we gave you were as good as those you gave us.

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