For 33 years, That’s Entertainment was the place in St. Catharines where you could go pick up a copy of your favourite movie, from a collection of over 15,000 titles.
Now, the largest independent video store in the Niagara region is closing its doors for good — another local business that’s become a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s Entertainment announced it’s going out of business and its plans to permanently close via Facebook on Wednesday, May 4. The team is planning to announce the store’s final opening day soon, slated for the end of June.
Greg Switzer has been general manager at the store for 20 years, and started working there when he was in high school in 1989, the year the store opened at 353 Lake St.
During the pandemic, he said they had to shut down the store several times during lockdown periods — and the bottom line took more hits than it could take.
“The pandemic is really what did it,” he said of the store shutting down. “We were doing pretty well up until that point.”
They’re hosting a “going out of the business” sale with 10 per cent off on everything in the store, with plans for more discounts and sales in the coming weeks, as they clear our inventory.
The store is one of the last of its kind offering physical copies of movies and TV shows in the Niagara region. Most video stores followed suit with Blockbuster in the early to mid 2010s, closing down with the rise of digital video-on-demand and streaming services, most notably Netflix.
Switzer credits their ability to have stayed around for this long to a diverse collection of movies and TV shows, selling and renting out everything from the hit films to small, independent titles.
“We’re the last of the super video stores,” he said. “We brought in movies that a lot of stores would not bring in.”
At That’s Entertainment, he said, customers could come in and not only pick up a DVD for movie night, they could get recommendations on new films to watch, and connect with fans of beloved franchises. Over the years, they expanded their selection to add used movies, video games, music CDs, and collectible items like Funko Pops.
“It’s nice to find a place where you can talk about whatever your passion is, whatever your fandom is, with, hopefully, staff that understand what you like and can make some recommendations for you,” he said.
Since announcing the closure, Switzer said it’s been heartwarming to see the outpouring of support from people in the city on social media, from longtime customers to former employees, of which there have been nearly 900 over the years.
“A lot of people, we gave them their first jobs,” he said. “We had people go onto become doctors, and lawyers, and teachers … in a way, they’re all my kids, too.”
He remembers being in that same place when the store opened in 1989, as a teenager who needed an after-school job. In those 33 years, he said what he’s learned the most is that, while things in life will never be completely easy, it’s all about adapting.
“Hard work is rewarded and hard work is, unfortunately, necessary,” he said. “We’d like it to be easy, but it’s not. You just kind of have to roll with the punches and keep going.”
Switzer plans to get a job with one of the neighbouring businesses the owners operate, either the Pay2Day or the Vapor Shoppe.
In the meantime, his focus, along with his staff, is on getting ready for the big closure.
“It’s going to be difficult,” he said. “Right now, it’s just kind of busy … when it gets close (to closing), it’ll get a little bit more emotional.”