Features Dec 3, 2014 at 4:00 am

What It Was Like Behind the Counter at On 15th Video

Mike Force


The loss of every independent store further diminishes the cultural landscape. Depending entirely on downloadable content or whatever garbage redbox has to offer seems so incredibly limiting when measured against the thousands of movies that were once available in neighborhood video stores. There is no computer algorythm that is as effective as a recommendation from a real, flesh and blood, human being.
I own a video store. I used to own three. One of the toughest things about running a brick and mortar business, video or otherwise, is the payroll obligation. These mom and pop businesses are rarely throwing off a lot of cash, but when payday is there you'd better have it. The story provided here is completely true and well written, but video store owners aren't the enemy. Plenty of weeks I've paid the help in full and there wasn't a dime left for me. The enemy is the liberals who make employment as expensive and burdensome as it possibly can be.
I see that Redbox and Netflix got called out. What about the Public Library? How come no one ever blames the library?
That sucks that they closed. I never even been there. I am a film maker from NYC. I found Video on 15th through a search of the web and sent them free copies of my films on DVD. The Dolls Of Lisbon / Anything Boys Can Do. I was thrilled they wanted them. As an indi filmmaker you always hope to reach a new audience. On 15th Video was a part of that.

Ethan Minsker
I worked briefly at On 15th Video back in the late '90s. It was a great place; sad to see it go. With most of its video stores gone and with Harvard Exit and The Varsity soon closing, Seattle is becoming a pretty depressing place for cinema lovers.

But we've still got Scarecrow Video, thank god. There are also two Video Isle stores (in Fremont and Queen Anne), the terrific Reckless Video on north Roosevelt remains, and Rain City Video still has a store located in Ballard. If you're sick of the shitty selection offered by Netflix and Redbox and you'd like to support independent video stores in Seattle, with their personalized service and broad film selection, rent your movies from these stores!!
15th was not just my favorite video store, it was maybe my favorite place on capitol hill. The space was small and cramped but so well curated that I almost never had to go to scarecrow for what I was searching for. Plus the monthly unlimited subscription model they ran was a dream!

I miss you guys! thanks for everything :)
"The enemy is the liberals who make employment as expensive and burdensome as it possibly can be."

Yeah, those liberal bastards who take serious that silly idea that employees should be able to eat and have a roof over their head.

And I'm sure the capitalists at Redbox and Netflix are liberals -- not.
I'm so sorry, 15th street video. You're missed.

I'm too poor to have the internet or cable, but I can always find some cash for credits at Rain City Video.

Example of what redbox can never provide:

I walked into Rain City last week, trying to remember the title of a Russian Christmas movie that was half horror, half comedy.

The guy behind the counter did not have time to even bat an eyelash before answering that I was looking for Rare Exports (Finnish, not Russian) and pulled it from a shelf. Who knows that stuff?!

Movie store people and their encyclopedic film knowledge are national treasures.
We were crushed when we went back the following week and ... it was closed and empty.

We're still pissed/sad that it's gone.

RIP, 15th Ave Video.. :'>(

and I hope the employees get their final checks.
When On 15th closed, I felt like a friend had been hit by a bus. It was one of my favorite spots in town. Now, with it gone and Harvard Exit closing... I'm wondering if as a working musician/artist I need to be looking at different cities as Seattle continues its trudge towards San Francisco.
I was a somewhat regular patron when I lived 5 blocks away and introduced my father-in-law who would regularly drive from Bellevue to rent there, right up until it closed. I wish there were a LEGAL online equivalent to what you had there at On 15th. I'd swap my Netflix subscription in a heartbeat for that kind of selection.
Broke my heart to see this. I worked there in the early 2000s and was easily one of my favorite jobs. Got turned on to some really cool films thanks to the other movie geeks I worked with. And I got to watch crazy Japanese action porn while I was getting the store ready to open in the morning. Sweet, treasured memories. Thanks for the article.

Here in uber-liberal Portland, Maine we have the indie institution that is wonderful, glorious Videoport, which has been around I believe 30 years. It takes up 1/3 of the basement of one of our many beautiful old downtown brick buildings (sharing it with an indie record/CD store and a family owned Italian restaurant featuring opera singing - not kidding.) It's one of things where the cliché is true: being there is half the fun. The place is jam packed with dozens of little old quirky newspaper and magazine clippings and such on the walls, old movie posters, funny shit hanging from the ceiling like Star Trek dolls and old VHS exploitation films. For some reason, unlike most businesses, it's super dog-friendly - there are always customers with their sweet, docile St Bernard-size pets. It's open late (for a retail business in tiny Portland): 11pm. And every night of the week they offer a free rental from a certain section when you rent a film. (For example, 'Middle Aisle Mondays' - free film from Science Fiction, Horror, Incredibly Strange, Popular Music, Mystery/Thriller, Animation, or Staff Picks.)

Their foreign, tv, and music sections are truly massive - much larger/more comprehensive than sections I've seen in stores in big cities like Boston and Toronto - and that "incredibly strange" section is a fucking blast. The staff is crazy knowledgeable and it's just such a huge asset to the city.

It would be an irreplaceable loss to Portland if it left us.


The loss of On15thVideo still shakes me. My heart goes out to the employees who lost money. Their passion and knowledge of film was impeccable. They acted as librarians, caretakers, and educators of that great American art form.

May the ghost of On15thVideo continue to haunt us....
Thanks for this article. It means a lot to me. I'm glad Michael Langford wrote it and that The Stranger published it.
Great drawing by Mike Force too.
To find the occupation you enjoy, and then to obtain that position, ignoring financial rewards, is admirable but when losing your employment writing such a superb essay, without bitterness is greatness. We are very proud!

I've never been to On 15th but I do go to Reckless Video for my evenings entertainment, I love it there! The employees are great, know so much, selection is terrific and the organization of their movies makes it so much fun to find what I want (they actually have a section called 'WTF?'). RIP On 15th, I didn't know ya but I mourn your loss.
What a waste of NINE YEARS of your life. Christ on a crutch! I used to live a few blocks from 15th Video and enjoyed shopping there. But nine years, really?!!
@2 - Man, yeah, sounds like these employees are sucking you dry. You should fire them and keep the cash yourself -- problem solved! You're welcome.

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