Susan Cross of Brattleboro rents DVDs from First Run Video employee Shawn Morton on January 22. The store’s shelves are beginning to clear out after
Susan Cross of Brattleboro rents DVDs from First Run Video employee Shawn Morton on January 22. The store's shelves are beginning to clear out after it was announced that the store will be closing on Feb. 7. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)

BRATTLEBORO -- After 28 years of operating in town, First Run Video will close its doors for good.

Early in January, owner Gregg Morrow received an eviction letter from property management, stating that his rental contract had been breached as a result of late payments.

"We had been late a few months and felt this would not get better," he said. "They have the right to do it. It's just a shame."

Sandy Harris, speaking on behalf of a group of partners that owns the property, said they had "no comment" on the matter.

Each time a payment was late, it had been five to 30 days late, said Morrow. Before the letter was opened, he said all bills were caught up and completely paid.

Feb. 6 will be the store's final day of operation.

"It's a struggle," said Shawn Morton, who held the general manager position for the last eight months. "It's just really sad. I've been coming here for 20 years."

Late fees for those bills were requested by the landlord. According to Morrow, those fees were approximately $1,000. That's when he made the executive decision to close.

One of the reasons he cited for the business not being as lucrative was the cost to work with a silent partner. The store was sent copies of new release movies on DVD each week. First Run would charge $3.50, of which Morrow said the partner would take 40 to 50 percent.

"It's an industry that is dying," he added. "Shops are closing. It's inevitable."

The store had previously been located across the street. The cost to rent the space in Black Mountain Road Plaza looked better financially for Morrow, who had essentially chose to save the store after its previous owner talked about closing it down.

Before moving into the plaza on Oct. 1, 2012, there had been some serious renovation that took place in the building that formerly housed Whitman's.

Morrow recalls the building sitting empty before First Run Video began setting up shop inside. He said $30,000 out of $40,000 had been spent in renovations alone, which included repairs, installing new counters, plumbing and electrical work.

"We dropped $40,000 in hopes of being around for two to three to four years," said Morrow. "We lost probably 40 percent of our customer base. We still have customers saying, 'We didn't know you moved.'"

To relocate again, he said, would be the same as rearranging the furniture in the Titanic and it would cost no less than $20,000.

Last weekend when the announcement was initially made, there was an increase in business. One woman approached Morrow teary-eyed.

"It was probably our best (weekend)," he said. "Basically, it was comparative to tent sales.

The shelves are beginning to clear out at First Run Video, the last movie rental store in Brattleboro, after it was announced that the store will be
The shelves are beginning to clear out at First Run Video, the last movie rental store in Brattleboro, after it was announced that the store will be closing on Feb. 7. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)
If we had that every weekend, we'd be here forever."

This is typically the store's busiest time of the year. However, business has not been as good as last year.

[From the archives: Video stores in a digital age]

"My frustration is: You think people would be more understanding," said Morton. "I do think there's a need."

He himself will likely opt for streaming services when going for future movie rentals. He had begun to send out applications for other jobs.

Morrow told the Reformer there is a rumor that another tenant is slated to move in there, but said it did not originate at First Run. Some customers had mentioned it to employees there.

For now, there have been talks with prospective buyers for the equipment and movies that have not yet been sold. There has been interest from people in the state as well as New York and California. If the California company chooses to buy it, Morrow says the store will be asked to "shut the door and throw it in a box."

Morton mentioned that he had made a lot of friends while working at the store. He said it had been a kind of social hub.

When asked if there was a possibility for a new store in town, Morton smiled.

"Don't be surprised," he said.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.