If you’re visiting Bend, you may be treated to quite a shocking sight when driving through middle of the bustling city. Sitting just down the road from Revere and Highway 20 there lies a gateway to the past, a reminder of our younger days, of a simpler time. Yes indeed, that is the last remaining Blockbuster Video in the lower 48 states.
But, how can this be? I spoke to general manager Sandy Harding to get a better understanding of how this cultural site endures in Bend.
“I think it has been successful because of the community,” Harding said. “Even though Bend has grown so large, it still feels like a small town.”
Harding explained that the store is privately owned by Ken Tisher. The location was a franchise location before Dish Network bought Blockbuster and closed the stores, Harding said. There is no more corporate Blockbuster, and the store pays a licensing agreement to Dish Network every year in order to use the Blockbuster name.
“There are people who visit due to nostalgia. People are excited to see a Blockbuster Video, to see the same layout inside that they remember,” said Harding.
But my question remained, why did Harding think a Blockbuster Video would be able to survive in a city like Bend?
“People think that a Blockbuster would do better in a smaller town, but a larger town is actually better to survive in. There are so many options for people now that having a larger population of people to appeal to is beneficial to the business,” said Harding.
According to Harding, the Blockbuster actually has quite the loyal customer base .
“I would guess the vast majority of our customers have Netflix or some other type of streaming service at home, but they come in to get movies and television shows that aren’t on those services,” said Harding.
Harding gave an example: when Gene Wilder died, people came in to rent famous Wilder titles like Young Frankenstein and the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Another aspect that Harding thinks people appreciate is the social aspect of the store. She says people enjoy talking with the staff about movies and being able to get recommendations.
“The store is special, the staff is great, the community is special,” said Harding.
So if you’re in Bend, make sure to dust off that old blue and yellow card, or stop in and apply for a new one. Have your camera ready to take pictures with the store sign or the staff and get a recommendation of a new movie or an old classic to take home for the night and relive your younger days.