Video store owner expects vacuum when he closes doors 21 years on

A three-month trial turned into a 20-plus year business for Raglan Video store owner Alan Lovegrove. But all good things come to an end and next Monday he’ll shut up shop for good.

“It’s time to go,” a jovial Alan told the Chronicle last weekend between serving customers attracted by the price-slashed DVDs in his closing-down sale at Electric Ave, where the store was relocated a couple of years ago.

“I’ve been tired so long it’s now time to re-tire,” he joked.

Alan wasn’t about to reveal his exact age – “try 70ish,” he suggested – but reckoned there’d be no slacking and that his wife Fran already had the vacuum cleaner “greased up and ready to go”.

Then they’d be off to Vancouver Island in July to visit their daughter and young grandsons he fondly describes as “a couple of characters”.

Alan’s driven to work from Hamilton – where he previously had video stores in Nawton Mall and Hillcrest – the entire two decades. “Somebody had to commute, me or my wife (who worked at the university), and I drew the short straw as usual,” he grins.

There was an opportunity here when he set up shop in April 1997, Alan recalls, with only the BP service station renting out videos at the time.

But local businessman Andreas Broring – from whom Alan first rented his longtime premises in Bow St, roughly where the Yot Club is now – wasn’t convinced a video store would work and was prepared only to give it a 12-week shot.

That trial turned into 21 years, says Alan, with a couple of changes of landlord and one major shift in location. He has no idea what the vacant space left by his shop will become next.

While he believes there’s still a need for a video store in town, it’s “nowhere near as great as it used to be”. He says there are now so many other options like Neon Entertainment, Lightbox and Netflix.

“Technology has changed and you’ve got to move on,” he adds.

Oddly enough people from places like Australia and England still love to come and browse, he reveals, because video stores have all but disappeared overseas. There are only a few independent stores left in Hamilton now but they’ll eventually go, he predicts, just as VHS went with the advent of DVDs.

Alan’s convinced that if it weren’t for a core of regulars, Raglan Video wouldn’t have lasted as long as it did. He reckons picking up a movie to watch has been part of many locals’ routine over the years, as automatic as going to the grocery store.

He’s employed a string of mostly young people during the decades to help maintain the long opening hours till 9pm seven days a week, and observes that some of his more recent staff weren’t even born when he started out. “I couldn’t have done it without local assistance.”

Asked if there were any memorable incidents, Alan cites the time he was clearing the returns box and a customer put her hand through the slot from the other side. “It scared the living daylights out of me,” he laughs.

“Oh, and I nearly killed off one young customer,” he recounts, when a local with a previously unknown allergy to hazelnuts landed in hospital after buying a chocolate bar containing the offending nut.

   Edith Symes

  Alan now has a ‘buy one get one free’ closing-down special on all $3 movies, and says “thanks Raglan for the memories and being part of your lives for the past 21 years”.