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VisArt Video closing its doors

By Susan Dickson
Staff Writer

VisArt Video, a mainstay in downtown Carrboro, will soon close its doors after more than 20 years renting DVDs and videos to the public.

Manager Cameron Price, who has worked in the store for 14 years, said VisArt will probably close sometime within the next week.

“We still don’t know the exact date,” Price said, adding that it will depend on whether staff has to remove the racks from the store. VisArt’s lease expires in February.

VisArt has seen a steady decline in business over the last three or four years reflecting a shift in the way people rent movies, according to Price. The small chain of video rental stores has already closed its locations in Durham and Chapel Hill, leaving only the Charlotte store open.

“It all kind of started with DVDs taking over, because it started to get really cheap,” he said. “It’s all digital downloads and movies by mail and those red boxes.”

While the store has a number of loyal customers, there weren’t enough to keep VisArt in business.

“They’re all just really sad,” Price said. “It’s hundreds of people saying the exact same thing over and over again.

“You know it’s sincere; but at the same time, it’s ‘where have you been for the last five years?’” he added.

The store is selling its DVDs and other merchandise, much of which is already gone.

“We still have a lot left, but a lot of what we have is stuff people have never heard of,” Price said, adding that there were some good movies left, but customers might have to dig to find them.

Frank Heath, owner of Cat’s Cradle, next door to VisArt’s 7,000-square-foot space, said, “VisArt will be dearly missed, especially since it’s the only independent video store left in town,” adding that the store has been a great neighbor for his music club.

Mia Prior, a VisArt customer for 20 years, said she loved the store’s unusual selection.

“Just browsing the store and looking at the employee picks was educational, “ she said. “The other thing I loved was the knowledge of the people who worked behind the counter. They knew a lot about movies and could help you find very obscure films.

“VisArt has been a treasure to this town, and has given us access to high art and culture that we cannot get easily elsewhere. In fact, I fear that the closing of the store is closing the door to finding out about a lot of these great movies for many people.”

Most of the store’s 12 employees have other part-time jobs, Price said, so they won’t be unemployed once VisArt closes.

But though he won’t be unemployed, Price said he is “really going to miss working” at VisArt.

“There was a reason I worked here for almost 15 years. It was the best job I ever had,” he said. “I got to be surrounded by movies all the time.”

2 Responses

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  1. Mia Prior

    Thanks for doing this story! As I said in the article, I will miss Visart terribly. I also heard from an employee there that they MIGHT start a coop with some of the movies that were left in the store. Has anyone heard more about this? I think it’s a great idea. Alternative idea — donate a lot of the movies to the CH Library and give them a great collection to lend out?

  2. Gregg Tracton

    About Mia’s suggestion to donate the remaining videos to the CH library… perhaps a better idea would be to stream them from the library so that people would not have to travel.

    Perhaps THAT is the future of libraries. Chapel Hill/Carrboro can require the next broadband provider supply sufficient bandwidth to support local streaming to the entire county. Of course, a library card would be required to activate the movies, each of which would be streamed to only one house at a time to avoid copyright issues.