Saturday, June 18, 2011

Keep the Pleasant Street Video Collection Alive at the Forbes Library

Please donate to the Pleasant Street Video Fund

The 10yo's first question,
after "WHY IS IT CLOSING?!?!?" is
"Who gets the leopard that lives in the kids' section?"
She'll pay extra!

Pleasant Street Video to close at end of June (I think the link only stays live for awhile, then, sadly, the local paper firewall's it)

by Bob Flaherty
Saturday, June 18, 2011

NORTHAMPTON - Pleasant Street Video, where movie lovers and practically everyone else gathered daily to chew on the issues of the day, will close its doors at the end of July, after 25 years in business.

But the store has a vision for its vast collection of hard-to-get films, and the general public, by way of Forbes Library, may be the beneficiary.

Pleasant Street Video manager and co-owner Dana Gentes said the store's revenue for the last five years dropped to about half of what it had been in the late 1990s to its mid-2000s heyday.

"Online services such as Netflix dramatically cut into our customer base," said Gentes, adding, "Computer culture in general has taken up many of the hours people used to spend watching movies."

The downtown location has been compared to an old country store, a central gathering place for film buffs and those looking to discuss life in general with the always accommodating staff.

The store did not hire clerks; it employed cinema experts and vibrant local personalities like Patty Huff, Gene Kane, Jenifer Gray-Lewis, Philip Price, Chris St. George, Zeke Fiddler and Bill Dwight, many of whom worked there for years.

The latest skinny on mayoral races or municipal email scandals segued seamlessly into discussions of Oscar nominees or unheralded directors, as one customer coming in would pick up the conversation of another leaving and expand upon it.

A movie fan could literally spend hours downstairs trying to choose from the staggering collection of film noir, foreign films, musicals and anime.

"It's wistful and sad," said Dwight, "but we've already gone through the stages of mourning."

"I don't want it to close," said Gentes, "but I'm excited about what we're doing with the Forbes."

Gentes, after processing feedback from customers and employees, has come up with a novel way to deal with the store's collection of more than 8,000 videotapes and DVDs - both mainstream and independent, many titles now out of print.

Pleasant Street Video and the Forbes Library are joining forces to raise $60,000 in the near future. Reaching that goal would allow the entire Pleasant Street video collection to take on a new life at the Forbes, tripling the library's video and DVD collection. For each $8 donated, another film will be added to the Forbes' collection. Tax-deductible donations to the Forbes' Pleasant St. Video Fund may be made online at Pleasant Street Video Fund or in person at the Forbes Library or Pleasant Street Video.

"It was a zeitgeist kind of moment," said Gentes. "Of all the ideas, this is the one that makes the most sense."

Gentes said that one angle for the next few days will be that certain genres will be offered up to donors looking to spend more than $8.

"A person could donate the entire Hitchcock collection under his or her name," he said. "We'll have a plaque or poster for special donators. The Martin Scorsese section has already been purchased by myself."

"It's a 25-year-old curated collection, hand-picked by cinefiles," said Dwight. "No library in the world will have a collection like this."

"The store's closing is a definite loss for the community," said Faith Kaufman, head of arts and music at Forbes. "Very few towns have an independent video store with that kind of a collection. Many people have been focused on preserving this incredible collection for the community and keeping it local - this is a very elegant solution."

"It's bittersweet that they're closing, but there is a silver lining," said Kaufman, who said patrons have already started donating to the cause.

Pleasant Street Video was opened in the fall of 1986 by Richard Pini and John Morrison, as a companion to the adjacent Pleasant Street Theater, which they had been running for about 10 years. Gentes was hired as the manager and given a percentage of the ownership the following year.

When it became apparent in 2009 that it would be increasingly difficult to keep the store going, Pini put the retail condominium on the market. A buyer for the space is pending.

By Monday, Gentes said he would have more details about the future of the property.

As for his own future, Gentes said, "I'd like to become more involved in the local arts scene. I might make videos rather than rent them."

Bob Flaherty can be reached at

Please help if you can. The girls and I love the video store and the library!

Photographs, except the one of the 10yo - which is by me, all found online. Photo credits to follow - as soon as I find them!


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