TRAVERSE CITY — MTV debuted in 1981 with “Video Killed the Radio Star.” The death of Family Video is being blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic. Two Traverse City locations are among the 250 in 21 states that will be shuttered.
In a Jan. 5 letter posted online and addressed “to our employees and customers,” Highland Ventures Ltd. CEO Keith Hoogland announced all Family Video stores were closing after 42 years.
Hoogland took pride that Family Video started with a “handful of 500-square-foot video rental locations (and) grew to 800 locations with up to 7,000 square feet of video rental and retail.”
According to the Family Video website, Hoogland became president of Family Video in 1995. His father, Charlie, opened the first Video Movie Club of Springfield in 1978. Highland Ventures is based in Glenview, Illinois.
In his letter, Hoogland noted that Family Video survived “10 years longer than the Big 3, Blockbuster, Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video.”
“Today, I have to make the difficult announcement that we are closing all Family Video locations,” the Jan. 5 letter said. “The impact of COVID-19, not only in foot traffic but also in the lack of movie releases, pushed us to the end of an era.
“I am extremely thankful to our employees and customers that were instrumental in Family Video’s success. Without you, we would not have been the last man standing in the industry.”
“It’s a sad day,” Jason Yuhasz, director of regional operations for Family Video, said in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster.
“COVID really did kill the video store.”
Yuhasz said Family Video has about 80 locations in Michigan. Family Video has about 250 locations in 21 states, down from its high of 800.
Yuhasz said that during quarantine, customers watched movies at home on streaming services. After the lockdown was lifted, Yuhasz said customers didn’t return in numbers sufficient to keep Family Video in operation.
The uncertainty of movie releases — now and in the future — added to the decision, Yuhasz said. He pointed to the recent release of “Wonder Woman 1984” as a growing trend. The movie was released both in theaters and on HBO Max.
To survive, Family Video in recent years began leasing building space to tenants. In a March 2018 Record-Eagle article discussing Silver Spruce Brewing moving into the Family Video location at 439 E. Eighth St., Yuhasz said many different companies had moved in to share space at the company’s various locations.
Family Video eventually closed its Traverse City Eighth Street location at the end of the February 2020. Silver Spruce Brewing, which had occupied half the building, expanded to take over the space.
Family Video now has two locations in Traverse City, at 1288 W. South Airport Road and 916 U.S. 31. The South Airport location is home to two restaurant tenants, Jimmy John’s and QDOBA Mexican Eats. The Chum’s Corner location shares space with Total Wireless. Family Video in recent years began selling CBD products.
Yuhasz said Family Video stores will remain open for a couple of months.
“We started today the liquidation sell-off of movies, games and fixtures,” he said.
Yuhasz said those fixtures include counters and shelving the company built.
“We made all the countertops and shelving,” Yuhasz said. “We created that business model from the top down. We made everything in house.”
Part of Family Video’s business model includes owning the buildings. Yuhasz said the company will start looking for new tenants for the spaces it is vacating. Anyone interested can contact him at email@example.com.
Yuhasz said he and many customers now are reflecting on the company’s run.
“I have a lot of good memories,” Yuhasz said. “I remember renting ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’ with my dad when I was a kid.”