An Ode to One of Virginia's Last Video Stores

Sep 6, 2016

This year, the world marked the end of an era, as the last video cassette recorder rolled off the assembly line in Japan.  Here in Virginia, locals marked another sign of the time as video stores closed their doors for good – among them Maupin’s in Crozet.  

Though it did not come as a great surprise, my heart sank when I first read in the Crozet Gazette that Maupin's Music & Video was closing.  Then came the big sad “Going Out of Business” sign on the door. With great compassion, gratitude, and a heavy heart I say goodbye.

I wish the Maupin brothers and their families magical adventures traveling to grandchildren and other beloveds in upcoming semi-retirement. This is of course what any business owner works toward as a final goal, right? I can’t let you go, however, without telling you what you’ve meant to me over the last twenty years.

And the closing of Maupin’s Music & Video deserves at least a moment of reflection on the loss and legacy of the last video store in our world; a chewing on what is over and over again being ditched in 21st century life:  humanity. I say these things fully understanding that to everything there is a season. I say these things because we are losing much more than a video store.

Maupin’s Music and Video had a phenomenal library of movies! Moreover, Maupin’s Music & Video had humanity in spades. The Maupin Brothers talked with their customers.  They were part of a conversation, and it’s that face-to-face togetherness that’s disappearing at all levels in these times of a mass consumer-driven, corporate-run, automated world. This tragic loss of human connection began when screen time was born and has spiraled out of control in the last decade.

I remember when I was a child, I’d watch & listen to my father having a conversation with the grocery store clerk during the check-out process. Today children observe parents silently gazing upon android screens and clerks too interact silently with a screen. In stores that offer self check-out, there is not even a clerk! Just the chance for frenzied multi-tasking for all.

Maupin’s, on the other hand, was a refuge —a sweet elixir, a safe harbor with eye contact, conversation, even a pen and piece of paper that both customer and clerk used in communion! I could drop in at Maupin’s and bear-hug humanity, starved for such hugs. One day when I was browsing through movie titles, the Allman Brothers’ Melissa played on the stereo. I confessed how much I loved that old record Eat a Peach. When I went in to return the movie, there was a burned CD of Eat a Peach waiting for me. 

Every time I went into Maupin’s there was of course the question of the movie I was about to watch and whether or not it came with a thumbs up. Sometimes brief, sometimes with shared smiles or frowns, it was conversation that fed my hyper-screen-time buzzing head and heart, depleted from too much time spent in the machination of an automaton 21st century.

Credit Pete / Creative Commons

Then there were the late fees… NOT. It’s unthinkable in this day that you’d ever be spared a late fee, be given a little extra time. But here’s how the conversation went more times than not:

Me: "When is this video due back?"

Maupin Brother: "Aw, Saturday, but it’s okay if you keep it an extra day or two. We know where to find you."

I pray at this writing that the lack of late fee revenue is not what did Maupin’s Music & Video in. I would tuck dollar bills into the DVD jackets as a small way of saying thanks, an attempt to offer a tithe of sorts to keeping this generosity, this sustaining spring of humanity, up and running.

I remember in 2012 returning home to Crozet from a trip to my mom's in Tucson. It had been my moment of disheartened discovery that we could no longer suddenly entertain whimsical movie watching if the movie wasn't a new A release and wasn't classic (I think the movie my mom and I had a sudden hankering for was Marley and Me). I drove around Tucson finding Red Boxes with shamefully limited libraries. I realized that it was likely not just in Tucson that there were no longer local video stores.

When I came home from that trip, I went promptly to Maupin’s where I could breathe again, adoring the space around me, thrilled to hear the pleasant thump of practicing herds of young ballerinas in the studio space above. I told Pete, "Promise me! Promise me you will never close this business!"

I couldn't bear the thought of this perennial garden of conversation and connection, of two beautiful brothers who are the roots and trunks of my town that may be headed for clear cutting, not to mention a fabulous library of movies, could ever go away in a world that no longer holds customers in this way.

I still can’t. Fare thee well, you beautiful Maupins. Thank you for being our last video store stronghold.