It will always be hard for wife and husband Renea and Bruce Herberger to think about the day they had to close Longmont’s Showtime Video in June 2016.
“We had customers coming in begging us not to close,” Renea Herberger said. “We had many people crying, saying, ‘What I’m going to do? I’m going to miss Joe. I’m going to miss Amy.’”
For 25 years, the video store was a community hub — and was once Warner Brother’s biggest customer west of the Mississippi. The store was a place where customers could easily get lost for hours, browsing the racks of movie titles within the store’s mirrored walls and talking with employees about what flick they should pick to rent next.
Boulder experienced a similar loss less than a year later.
The Video Station co-owner Sheri (LaPres) Brown remembers when the independent store would be bustling with the usual weekend crowd of fellow movie lovers. The business, formerly located on 28th Street, closed its doors in March 2017 at 5290 Arapahoe Ave. and was the last film rental outlet in Boulder to shutter.
While Longmont and Boulder residents can’t rewind to the time before online streaming and Red Boxes contributed to rendering video stores obsolete, the owners of bygone businesses are still left with the positive memories and sense of impact that their operations had on their communities.
The video store chain got its start in the 1970s, when Renea Herberger said her father, Ed Hooper, and uncle opened the first Showtime in Lovington, N.M. The stores existed across in New Mexico, Texas, South Carolina, California and Colorado.
At its height, there were 27 stores, including eight in northern Colorado at locations in Loveland, Greeley, Fort Collins, and Longmont at 1716 Main St. Herberger’s father offered the couple a chance to buy him out in 1993 and the couple began operating the Longmont and Loveland stores.
Renea and Bruce Herberger said customers and employees were tight knit, so much so that if a regular didn’t come into the store for a few days, an employee might call to check on them and even bring a movie to their house, if they were too sick to stop by themselves.
“It was a very active store,” Bruce Herberger said. “I mean, we had our regulars. Some of our customers could literally come in and check themselves out, we would see them so often. They helped to train some of my new employees.”
A customer’s quest for a video might spark an hourlong conversation with a store employee about a shared love of movies and Bruce Herberger was sure to do his homework.
He said he watched every movie that the store got, meaning he would watch three to four movies a night, staying up into the early hours of morning. His dedicated research gave him the opportunity to tell customers about it when they asked. It was also the chance, he said, to find the hidden gems, like “The Usual Suspects,” with actor Kevin Spacey.
“I always taught my kids to be consistent. If someone asks you whether you liked a movie, you tell them the truth: I hated it or loved it or whatever,” Bruce Herberger said. “I had customers that liked everything I hated or hated everything I liked.”
Running the video stores gave the couple a bit of local celebrity status.
“We couldn’t even go out to eat,” Bruce Herberger said. “We would sit at a table and customers or waitresses would sit down at the table and start talking to us about movies.”
Besides providing movies to their communities, the Herbergers took pride in providing jobs for area youth and teaching them skills such as professionalism, quality customer service — and teaching youth how to tie a tie. Video store employees, boys and girls alike, were required to wear a white shirt and tie. In their first 15 years of operation, they had about 60 employees in their Colorado stores and only two were over 18.
Their training paid off. Bruce said he saw many of their employees get internships, go on to college or score bigger and better jobs.
“I always joked, ‘Oh, great. Once I get them trained you come and steal them away from me,” Bruce Herberger said. “But, it was a joke, because that’s what we wanted. I used to teach them, everything you need to know to become the president of IBM, you can learn in this video store. They would look at me and go, ‘Really?’”
The Video Station
When Brown bought The Video Station with co-owner Bruce Shamma in 2002, she wanted to offer customers a variety of movie genres from the big hits to independent and foreign films. She also wanted to hire people who shared her passion for videos, so, the application process involved a test of their movie knowledge.
Prospective employees might have to outline their favorite movies in certain genres or name films under certain directors. Brown, who also ran Rocky Mountain Records in Boulder from 1988 to 1997, had a similar test for hiring record store employees.
“I had one person that called me a snob (because of the test), but it was like, ‘Well no, I’m not a snob, I just want my employees to be able to speak to the customers about movies,’” Brown said. “If you can’t do this task, well, guess what? It’s not something that’s going to work for us.”
As a result, Brown said they had 12 to 20 knowledgeable staff members, who could help customers find movies from the roughly 40,000 titles available at the store that they would enjoy, based on what they said they had liked watching in the past.
That human connection has been lost with the closure of video stores.
“Now, a computer does that and a lot of times they get it wrong,” Brown said. “A computer can’t get all the subtleties about what you might like.”
The final scene
Brown said customers at independent video store began to dwindle as online streaming services and Red Box increased in popularity.
In 2008, Shamma bought out Brown’s portion of the business and continued on without her. Shamma downsized the store and moved it from its home at the Buffalo Village Shopping Center to 5290 Arapahoe Ave.
To the dismay of loyal customers, after 35 years of business, Video Station closed in March 2017.
Seven years ago, Brown started working in real estate at RE/MAX Alliance in Boulder. But, she still remembers The Video Station’s legacy.
“I just miss everything,” Brown said. “I miss video stores. I miss record stores. I miss that personal interaction you have when you’re talking about music, when you’re talking about videos.”
Bruce Herberger said Showtime closed because “the industry was changing.” Rent costs for the Main Street store front went up and so too did employee wages. Studios also started forcing the business owners to buy everything they were putting out, rather than the movies they wanted in stock.
The couple closed their last Showtime Video location in Colorado, the Loveland store at 1821 Eisenhower Boulevard, in 2018.
“When we started, there wasn’t anything competing (with us) besides the movie theater and school sports,” Renea Herberger said. “That was pretty much your entertainment options.”
The couple recently packed up their Loveland home to move to Lubbock, Texas. They’ve been using their free time to travel, including to Dominican Republic, Mexico and the coast of North Carolina. And, they still stay up late watching movies.
“It was a lot of fun,” Renea Herberger said of running Showtime Video.
Bruce Herberger said they still run into former customers.
“It’s like seeing old friends,” he said.