From the ashes of Bryn Mawr’s TLA Video location comes Ardmore’s Viva Video! The Last Picture Store courtesy of former TLA assistant manager/product buyer/13-year employee Miguel Gomez. Aside from a new name and location (just a mile and a half east of the TLA location), Viva Video! feels exactly like the TLA stores of old. Same shelves, rental model, tag system, subscription plans. The inventory is made up largely of former TLA stock combined with Miguel’s personal collection. The store’s three employees are all veterans of the Bryn Mawr TLA and the actual construction of the store, housed in a former Super Suppers, was assisted by loyal TLA customers who contributed their time for free just to see the business continue. Miguel’s wife Perci, former Bryn Mawr TLA manager and 11-year veteran of the store, has also been lending a hand.
I visited Viva Video on the Sunday of its grand opening weekend. While I missed the big crowds and wine and cheese of the previous two evenings, I was happy to see a constant stream of customers during my time there, all of which congratulated Miguel with an obvious appreciation for his efforts. Of note to movie fans are the posters from Miguel’s collection, old Italian slashers and weirdo Czech interpretations of American movies. I spoke with Miguel between customers to find out more about what will surely be the Philadelphia area’s final video rental outlet…
MIGUEL GOMEZ: I’m not 100% sure. I don’t know if it’s better not being in a city and having an older clientele. I think that was part of it. We never had the hipper-than-you attitude that I feel was encouraged a lot in the Center City stores. I’d like to think it was because we were doing a really good job, I think that’s part of it, I think another part of it is the affluence of the area.
C: When did you find out or realize that your TLA would close?
MG: It was officially known when they closed the last one, the Locust Street store, I think Ray [Murray] mentioned in an article that we were going to be closing. I don’t remember when I knew for sure, but I knew it was coming for a long time. I feel like I started seriously planning this store about a year or a year and a half ago. Since high school I’ve wanted to have my own video store. I was doing light research when they were closing the stores, once they closed Locust Street I started seriously looking at places.
MG: Well we still had steady business at TLA, I really believe this can go on for a while longer. I saw the financials and knew what we had to do to make things work, the rent there was so crazy high. Honestly, I’m not looking to get rich, I’m looking to pay my salary and the rent. And I take pride in being a job creator now, that’s great.
C: And TLA was supportive of your decision to carry on the store? I know that a great deal of your inventory came from your old store…
MG: I had to present TLA a list of things priced individually, they were very supportive, I’d also been stocking up for a year. No one cautioned me, but I know that Claire [Brown Kohler] was talking to Perci and she said “Are you sure Miguel wants to do this?”
C: At what point will you consider Viva Video! a success?
MG: I haven’t really considered that yet…when I’ve paid off all of the money that’s gone into it. If I pay that off and pay the rent and employees then I’d say that it’s an unmitigated success. I think it’s already a success in how stoked people are when they come in and thank me for keeping the store open. I definitely feel like I’m part of the community, I’d say it’s already a success that way.
Miguel’s future plans include a possible homemade ice cream vendor setting up in the back lobby (a former TLA employee, of course) as well as in-store movie screenings (stay tuned to Cinedelphia for more info on these in the near future…).
Author: Eric Bresler
Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of Cinedelphia.com whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He’s served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.