Last August, Squamish's only movie theatre closed its doors. Now the community is losing its last remaining video rental store as well.
Highland Video, which has operated since 1988, is closing down at the end of February for “health reasons,” owner Kyoung Ho Choo told The Chief on Tuesday (Feb. 5). The store is selling off its collection of DVDs in advance of the closing.
The video-rental business has been in decline across North America for the past few years, mostly because of competition from Netflix and other online video rental and sales services. Movie Gallery, at one time North America's second-largest video rental chain, filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Industry leader Blockbuster did the same in 2011; its asets were to satellite TV company Dish Network last month.
Choo went to work managing the Highland Video store on Tantalus Way shortly after he and his family emigrated from Korea to Canada in 2000. Shortly thereafter he bought the business from the original owner, Gwen Taylor, taking over operation of the store on Jan. 16, 2001, he said.
At the time there were four video rental stores in Squamish, and other competitors have come and gone over the years, Choo said.
The store's business has been up and down, he said, describing 2011 as “very good” after Movie Gallery — the last remaining competitor in town — closed in December 2010.
“The last year  was slow but better than this year,” he said, adding that competition from online services has certainly cut into his business.
However, Choo stressed that his health is the main reason the store is closing its doors.
“Before my whole family immigrated to Canada in 2000, I had been on international trade business for over 25 years, highly interfacing… all over the world,” Choo wrote in an emailed statement. “At first when I took over this video store in January 2001, I was a little afraid that I [could] get used to these new circumstances. However, people in Squamish have been always nice to me and so have been my staff as well.”
Choo's son Shawn worked at the store from 2001 to 2005, after which he graduated from UBC and went to work for Samsung in San Diego, Calif. Shawn has since returned to Korea, where he works for the electronics firm LG. Shawn and his wife now have a one-year-old daughter, Angela.
“I'm taking this time to take care of myself and to take care of my granddaughter,” he said, adding that a trip to Korea is in the offing.
Regular customers still ask about Shawn, even though it has been seven years since Choo's son left, he said.
“Someday, I will be still missing my valued customers and people in Squamish,” he wrote. “Please allow me to say thank you [to my] valued customers for providing someone like me the opportunity to achieve my Canadian dreams… Thank you.”