BEND, OR -- Ever since news broke, late last week, that Alaska’s last two Blockbuster stores were closing, the Bend location has been inundated with visitors. "I really thought the Alaska stores would outlast everyone," General Manager Sandi Harding told KBND News, this week, "It’s just incredibly surprising, fun, a little sad to know that another store has fallen and the era is getting closer and closer to being gone. But, the nostalgia of being the only one left is just amazing."
The phone hasn't stopped ringing. Harding, who's been been with the store 14 years, says she's never seen it like this, "Over the weekend, we had a line of customers, wanting to take their picture in front of the Blockbuster sign. It’s just been insane, and crazy, and wanting to take pictures with my staff and with myself – and, it’s just been great." And, she says most are spending money, "People are recognizing that, 'hey, we need to stay open.' And so, they're coming in and saying 'hi,' they're getting their picture taken, they're buying some candy or a movie or something and taking it with them." She adds, "Publicity is great but we've got to have money to stay open. Otherwise, we're not going to be the last store; we'll be yet another memory, like everyone else."
The store at Third and Revere has been featured on media outlets like CNN and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; and all that attention provides a lot of free advertising. Ben Richard is here on vacation from Redwood, California and stopped in for a photo, "I haven’t been in one in years, and I was just, ‘I have to go to it.’ It’s so novel - I mean, DVDs and Blu-Rays - things have really transitioned to streaming." Daryl Richard says she wanted to check out an American institution, "For a short period of time in our history, that’s why I find it interesting to be here, because it was an American institution. And, this is almost like the dinosaur era in terms of technology."
Bob Bastien says he’s wanted to stop in since moving to Bend six months ago, and all the attention over the last few days piqued his curiosity, "We were surprised that they even had one because, where we came from, which is the Sacramento area, they’re all gone. So it is kind of different." For regulars, like Heather Thompson, it’s just her neighborhood video store, "I still own a DVD player and I like to look at the choices. Things that would never be on cable or things I wouldn’t pick out sometimes jump off of the shelf, and you think, ‘oh, that looks good’." She admits she has a Netflix account, but says Blockbuster gives her access to lots more options. "Especially if you go into the classic movies or the anime, just the different genres that maybe you wouldn’t find on Netflix. Plus, I grew up with Blockbuster."
Harding says, "It’s been crazy fun, employees are loving it, the community is loving it. Everybody’s been coming in the door and saying, ‘oh my gosh, we saw you on the TV!’ They’re coming in and supporting us like they always have." But, she acknowledges the attention won't last forever. She has a message for local customers: "The bottom line, when this media coverage goes away and all the people from out of town go home, it's you guys that are keeping the doors open, and we just cannot tell you how much we appreciate you guys being here."