Local Business Continues to Defy the Odds
After nearly 30 years of operation, John’s Video Palace almost became another casualty in the video rental wars, but in classic movie fashion, the business dodged a bullet when a hero showed up in the nick of time. The locally owned and operated video rental store (yes, they still exist) came close to shutting its doors for good but then another local business pitched in a helping hand. Jodi Bloom, the owner of the florist shop Bloom N Grow, reached out to John Taft after learning about the Palace’s plight on Facebook and gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Bloom, who owns the property located at 9955 El Camino Real near the Atascadero Post Office, reduced her shop’s floor space and rented the remaining space to another business. Bloom said the adjacent spot has stood vacant since September 2018, but not for lack of interest. She passed on a lucrative deal to rent out her entire property to a “smoke shop,” a business that specializes in tobacco products and smoking equipment. With the plaza being filled with mom and pop shops, she felt that the store would not be a good fit. Instead, Bloom decided to take months in lost revenue and hold out for a more suitable business to take up residence.
“I couldn’t, in any good conscience, move them in here,” said Bloom. “So I’m glad that I held out and waited.”
Bloom believes businesses should support one another and recalled a time when local owners came to her aide. After 9/11, when her sales dropped dramatically, business owners came in and shopped to help her stay afloat through what she thought was her last Christmas season.
The whole scene originated when the time came to renew the Palace’s lease. Taft, who has not raised the price of video rentals in 15 years, felt the consistent raising of rent from an outside party was unjustified. He pointed out that another rental on the property owned by the same people has stood vacant for an extended length of time. Instead of renewing his lease, Taft hung an ‘out of business sale’ sign but soon took it down after accepting Bloom’s offer. He joked that he should put it up every few months to garner more publicity.
Taft made the arrangement official by signing the agreement on May 30 and told Colony Magazine that the new store will open at the beginning of July, just in time to mark its 31st anniversary. Taft said he has wanted to move the Palace toward Atascadero’s south side because the demographics better suit his business model.
The prospect of moving into a much smaller space does not daunt the business owner. Taft said that a 1,000-square-foot facility is plenty of room for the Palace. He plans on reducing his inventory of an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 movies to 4,000 at the new location and purge the “B-movies” that never move off the shelf. He will continue to be well-stocked in the most
popular sellers, new releases and G-rated family movies. There is also
a John’s Video Palace located at 124 Niblick Road in Paso Robles with a larger inventory that he can swap videos between stores per customer request.
“There’s about 1,000 movies that I don’t need,” said Taft. “I have rare movies that I keep, because I know it’s a movie people will need.”
For instance, during the interview, a customer came in asking for a series of movies featuring Tom Selleck playing a character named Jesse Stone. Taft, of course, owned the entire series. The interaction illuminated the point of Taft keeping movies that are good but are impossible to find through digital renting or box renting sights that only contain the newest movies.
Taft also provides his own entertainment to his customers. His quick wit and faux hair visor that he flips and spins for his customer’s amusement are a trademark to his resilience. Taft suffered a car accident in the ‘80s that broke his back and left hime temporarily paralyzed from the chest down. It also gave him a pronounced limp but it does not slow him down. In fact, some may find it hard to keep up with him.