Sadness: Four Star Video Announces Immediate Closure

This should not come as a surprise, but it is very sad nevertheless: The much-loved Four Star Video on Cortland has announced plans to close-up shop. In an email today headlined “The end of the movie,” owners Ken and Amy Shelf write:

Dear Neighbors,

It is with heavy hearts that we announce that Four Star Video is closed, effective September 26, 2012.  We are no longer renting movies.

Succulence continues to operate, and will be moving into the whole store over the next bunch of weeks.  See the bottom of this letter for more details.

When we bought Four Star, in March of 2007, we projected that the business probably had 3-5 years of life left in it.  We also optimistically committed ourselves to keeping it open for as long as we could.  Dashing our hopes but exceeding our expectations, we made it 5 ½ years.  But now, we must move on.

For quite a while Four Star has existed to pay its employees and serve the neighborhood, but it has not been a profitable enterprise.  We’ve hit other dips in the road and have made (sometimes difficult) adjustments that have kept Four Star open.  We shortened our hours, we changed our staffing schedules, we offered a membership plan for customers, and we stopped paying for health insurance for our employees.  That one really felt terrible.  Of course, we also opened Succulence.  That has added growth and new dimensions to the store and to our lives.  The two businesses together have worked in amazing cooperation.  But it does take a lot to run them both – one is growing while the other is shrinking, and the combination has often made us feel as though we are simultaneously running our hardest and staying in place.  That has been exhausting and discouraging.

It recently became clear that a change at Four Star was required, and we just don’t feel as though hiking the prices or reducing our ordering of new films or any other approach to keep Four Star afloat is likely to serve any long term goal, and maybe not any short term goal either.  There is a quality of experience that we’ve offered at Four Star that we don’t want to compromise, and we can’t maintain that quality and continue to reduce expenses.

We love Four Star Video and we know many, many of you do, too – you tell us all the time!  That makes us so proud, and makes this decision so scary.

Like so many others, we have been thinking about technology, the economy, our changing society and what it all means.  The opportunity to put on your shoes and jacket, walk to Cortland, and rent a DVD was a rare privilege and a wonderful feature to our neighborhood.  We are saddened and disappointed to see that go, but we are not surprised.  Certain ways we live our lives are changed forever, making some wonderful things obsolete.  That is not happening but has already happened.  It is indeed full of a lot of loss.

Change is a must, that much is clear.  The goodness or badness of change is sometimes just not the point.  The inevitability of change, however, carries the lessons to us: we cannot hold onto what is simply because we know it and love it; we cannot remain bitter about the inevitable, because then we are just left with bitterness; we cannot know what good will come!

Let us also heed this reminder not to take the things we love and value for granted.  Enjoy them while you can!  Take responsibility for their survival!  We do have some ability to decide what we will support, where we will compromise, and how we spend our money.  More here than most places – that is a privilege we haven’t yet lost.  Each of us plays a part in determining where value lies in our world.

Thank you, thank you, wonderful Bernal Heights, for supporting Four Star for so long.  Thank you to all of the previous owners of Four Star Video, who gave us such a gem.  Thank you to the probably hundreds of people who have worked at the store over the years.  And continuing thanks to you, dear customers, for coming in, hanging out, talking film, talking life, and changing and growing with us and the times.

We love bringing you art and plants and things that add to your quality of life, and we are grateful for the opportunity to keep doing it.  We will be selling movies in the store for a least two – and probably more like four – more weeks.  Our transition plan is a work in progress, but we have a lot of movies and need to get them to loving homes.  Maybe you want to own a piece of Bernal History or want to get some stocking-stuffers in advance.  Stock up on some TV series you haven’t watched yet?   Prepare for the collapse of the internet and global infrastructure by making sure you have entertainment stashed away in your survival bunker?

Kids’ movies are $4, library DVDs are $5, Library BluRays are $8, Criterion, foreign and documentary films are $10.  New Releases are $12 and Series are sold by the season for $10 – $15.  10% discount if you buy 10 or more movies, and a 20% discount if you buy 20 or more movies.  If you want more, let’s talk.  If you want VHS tapes you are a super hero.  Also, effective immediately, store hours are 10am to 8pm.  We’d love to give you store credit (at Succulence or to purchase films) for any unused blocks or KenFlix days if you are interested in that.  Your continued support means a lot to us.

We are sorry we couldn’t keep Four Star Video open forever.

With love, Amy and Ken Shelf

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

36 thoughts on “Sadness: Four Star Video Announces Immediate Closure

  1. Thanks, Amy and Ken, for the store. I’ve never rented from your store (I don’t watch much entertainment), but I will be sure to visit Succulence. Cheers.

  2. What a lovely, heartfelt letter. We look forward to continue shopping at Succulence and am very glad you are still a part of this neighborhood.

    • I agree – it’s so wonderful of them to take the time to so eloquently speak to the end of the business, and the end of things in our lives in general. A good read for many reasons.

  3. Sigh. Ken, You and your family have been such good owners of that business, and such good members of the Bernal community. You have supported many good causes, graciously hosted Outdoor Cinema and generally been amazing neighbors. I’d like to nominate you for the Croix Du Cortland (if there was such a thing). Continued success with Succlence, and the good news is that we will still be seeing you around the ‘hood.

    P.S. Hang on to YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN DVD for me.

  4. RIP Four Star – here’s to the future! May you find that niche that will cause Bernal dwellers to open their wallets to you. It’s been a great run…

  5. Completely understandable. Change is a constant -and a good thing.
    Thanks for all your efforts to keep 4 Star alive. Best of luck to the future.

  6. Wow, deep thanks to Ken and Amy for keeping it going as long as they have. So very many great memories of people and time my family has spent at 4 Star. I will miss it a lot but fully appreciate and respect the decision.

  7. Well said, Ken and Amy. This was a very wise and appreciated farewell note from you. I was wondering how your business was bucking all trends, hoping that the gratitude, appreciation, love and patronage of this amazing neighborhood was sufficient. Alas, and again – to your point and words, “…the goodness or badness of it …” just not the point.

    Stuff happens and perspective is important. Most modern Americans don’t appreciate the native American point of view: “There goes the neighborhood and with it our lifestyle (and lives?) …” – most “Americans” just appreciate the great nation that we are today, complete with its warts and carbuncles. And hope that it improves in the future.

    Ken and Lisa: thank you so much for offering us a wonderful business, one with soul, for 5.5 years! Love,
    Mike Simpson and Suhl Chin

  8. Sigh, indeed. Really good goodbye letter, thanks for sharing. We will definitely miss just walking down the street to pick up a movie.

  9. I’m still in denial that Four Star is closing! I just walked in to the store just now and it was too sad, watching all of the movies being sold off. My partner and I have been renting movies just about every week. We’ve had some great conversations, met new neighbors and debated film recommendations with the staff. I can’t even begin to imagine how much we will miss Four Star. I just wish there was more notice of the closing. I understand that it sounds like they have been struggling for awhile but perhaps there was something that could have been done to help?

  10. High quality neighborhood people…we will support Succulence by continuing to buy gifts and gift certificates! Super bummed about Four Star…end of an era for our 11 and 8 year olds!
    -Kristen, Jeff, Lily and Clem

  11. “The opportunity to put on your shoes and jacket, walk to Cortland, and rent a DVD was a rare privilege and a wonderful feature to our neighborhood.”

    That is what I’ll miss most about 4 Star Video – the human part of it. The excitement of getting that call that a video we wanted was in. Seeing what the fun, cool staff recommended or was watching that day. Browsing the shelves and finding something great (or crappy! – who cares?) Or watching my daughter running up, desperately clutching the latest Barbie movie she wanted to see (okay, maybe I won’t miss that).

    We stubbornly refused cable and Netflix and bragged to our friends about our funky neighborhood video store. And when Netflix sent me a free trial email the other day, I quickly erased it. “When would I EVER need that,” I laughed.

    Looks like today is the day.

    Happy trails, 4 Star Video. Amy and Ken — and David before you — have been a treasure to our neighborhood and part of what makes Bernal such a great community. Best of luck with Succulence. My family will definitely the miss movie nights and TV show marathons you made possible.

    Elizabeth, Scott and Takouhi

  12. This is a huge loss. Four Star was a Bernal Heights institution, so much a part of the fabric of the hood. We will miss it

  13. Oh wow, what an incredible loss!! I have rented at Four Star since I moved to Bernal Heights long ago. I have an ache just thinking about you closing.
    I am more then sorry and sad to see you and your wonderful employees go, but I will continue to buy your wonderful Succulents.
    I would love to buy INSIDE JOB which does an amazing job of explaining the demise of so many things. Save it for me Ken!

  14. Big loss for the neighborhood. I never went the Netflix route- never HAD to- because you were still in business. With one DVD rental I could 1. get exercise (it was a forty minute walk round trip ) a neighborhood business instead of a national corporation 3. browse the selection and decide on the spot what I wanted to see.
    Now I feel like I never even want to see a movie again. I love Succulence too, but it won’t have that lovely routine quality.
    Farewell Fellow Luddites.

  15. So sad… I’m going to miss my KenFlix account! As a community we should make the best out of a bad situation: I’m going to buy enough movies to hit the 20% discount and donate them to the library.

  16. Four Star Video supported my parenting. We don’t have a tv so when my 10 year old was being a good boy he was rewarded with a movie of his choice. He felt so proud of himself and liked walking alone to the video store. When my kid was driving me crazy all day I rented a horror movie to watch after everyone was in bed.
    Every employee of Four Star was so nice and they remembered my name! How many businesses can you say that about?
    Our whole family is bummed out about this.

  17. 😦

    I’m new to the neighborhood and actually just walked by Four Star for the first time a few weeks ago and thought “Wow, a video store!” I thought it seemed a little too good to be true in these times… and I guess it was. I’ve never been into the store but the letter really shows what the community is losing.

    On the bright side, I will definitely stop by the plant store in the near future!

  18. Dear amy and Ken I came back from Germany with this sad news. I just wanted to thank you for making it a great experience to walk into this store and will continue to visit the succulence. I love knowing you two and wish for much success in whatever follows. My best Mary

    Date: Wed, 26 Sep 2012 18:52:17 +0000 To:

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