It outlasted Blockbuster and Hollywood Video.
It’s held up against the mighty robot Redbox and snazzy streaming services.
What’s up with that?
Perry Irvine opened Silver Lake Video in 1985, and he doesn’t plan to fold anytime soon.
His shop at 11014 19th Ave. SE in south Everett’s Silver Lake Center is one of the last video rental stores in Snohomish County.
“I thought I’d be out of business 12 or 14 years ago,” Irvine said. “But it keeps on paying the bills.”
So Irvine, 67, keeps making the drive from his Lake Stevens home with his two adopted mutts who have beds in his office and the run of the store.
Silver Lake Video is like walking into the 1980s, except that VHS tapes got the boot years ago. There are thousands of plastic boxes with discs and two 25-cent gumball machines that offer a free rental if you score a yellow ball.
A ginormous airbrushed Yoda lords by the entrance. Charcoal portraits of Tom Cruise, Marilyn Monroe, Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts and Aubrey Hepburn peer over a wall of new releases that encircle the store.
Customers pay for the movie at the counter and are handed it after going through the security scanner, just like back in the day. Also at the front is a popcorn machine that emits a buttery aroma that entices you to linger as you stroll the maze of aisles with swirly theater carpet.
Just like old times, when you rushed to get a new release … that was already gone. But that was OK, because it was so fun to spend (or waste, depending on your perspective) hours wandering around for the right video that was your escape into cinematic bliss on the sofa.
In Irvine’s store, there are 15,000 titles — a videophile’s dream.
New releases are $3.68, about the going rate for a VHS rental when Irvine opened Silver Lake Video 33 years ago in a spot across the parking lot where Bartell Drugs is now.
“It was the start of the video boom,” he said. “I was in the heavy construction business for years. My wife and I were looking for a business with good ROI, return on investment, and at that time the video business had the best ROI. That was before we got in the Blockbuster wars. They started decimating the independents.”
In the 1980s, his cost to buy a new release VHS tape was in the $65 range, he said. It was a big deal if he had 10 copies. Now he might have 100 DVDs and Blu-Rays of a new movie.
“On the new release walls, 90 percent the studio owns,” he said. “It’s like the movie theaters. For the first six months it’s on a studio contract: they get a percentage of what it rents for and I get a percentage. It spreads the risk. At the end of six months I can pay to keep it or ship it back.”
Irvine owns the discs lining the shelves, including his favorite, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
He chalks up his longevity to “all the little tricks we use to stay in business.”
Selling movies online is one means. Internet orders keep growing from people who like to own movies the old-fashioned disc way.
Anything for rent is also for sale. If you want to take hunky George Clooney home for keeps in the “ER” first season, no problem, you can buy it off the shelf.
The store’s rental selection is dictated by Irvine’s crystal ball.
“You have to run your forecast on what customers have rented in the past,” he said.
One success: The $39 total he paid for three copies of the 2007 fantasy horror flick “House on Hooter Hill.”
“Who would guess that unless you ran your forecast models and knew that if you had a busty girl in front of a mansion that customers would rent that?” he said.
“It sat on the new release wall for three years because it kept renting and renting and renting.”
Want to see it?
“We have one copy hiding here, someplace.”
Older titles are $1, or $2.49 for five nights. Or get five and pay $7 for a week. Teachers get free rentals. Most movies in the children’s section are free for a night.
“Video games are a loss leader to get the kid to drag Mom into the store,” Irvine said.
Nothing is X-rated, though “House on Hooter Hill” might be close.
The former adult movie room in the back is now the stockroom for online sales. “It quit making money,” Irvine said of adult titles. “Everything is done by what the numbers tell us to do. We don’t go by our personal preference or choice. We go by what makes money.”
The store has a solid customer base.
Connor Cundall, 30, an Everett welder, likes talking about movies with the workers and gambling with quarters in the gumball machine.
“They have a way better selection of old stuff,” he said, mentioning the 2001 comedy “Out Cold” as an example. “It’s hit or miss if they’ll have those old movies on Hulu or Netflix and I don’t pirate anything.”
Lisa D’Andrea, an Everett mother of three, has been a regular for more than 20 years. She takes advantage of the free rentals for her kids and sometimes picks up something for herself.
“We use Amazon and Netflix. I can’t choose movies well,” she said. “I enjoy walking through and looking at the covers.”
Daniel Johnson, 30, was a customer before becoming an employee five years ago.
“I was coming to get movies all the time and they had an opening,” Johnson said.
His three daughters, ages 9, 11 and 12, are the entrepreneurs behind those cute $4 plastic containers filled with licorice, gummy bears and chocolates stacked on the counter.
“So far they’ve put $1,200 away in their bank account and they’ve made $1,200 in their pocket. Basically they’ve made $2,400,” Johnson said.
Irvine would like to eventually dip into his own version of the candy coffers and retire.
In terms of selling the place, “Banks would view it as a bad risk,” Irvine said. “I would look at it askance, too, unless they paid me cash.”
If he hangs on long enough, maybe Johnson’s daughters can buy it.
Want free videos?
Go to your local library.
Libraries have thousands of DVDs and Blu-Rays of movies and TV series, and also offer free streaming. All it takes is a library card.