Inside One of the Last-Remaining Video Stores in America

Steven Campbell opened Video Visions in 1984 with Jim Donovan. At the time, they had just 200 titles. Now, they have over 26,000.

Nestled in the quiet town of Chatham, New York, is Video Visions, one of the last-remaining video stories in America.

Steven Campbell opened Video Visions in 1984 with Jim Donovan. At the time, they had just 200 titles. Now, they have over 26,000, a feat that seems all the more incredible as streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have overtaken brick-and-mortar stores. For the cost of just $2, customers can rent any title they want for a day. Additional days are just a buck. 

"People thought we were crazy, that we were never going to make enough money having a video store," Donovan, who has since sold his half of the business to Campbell, told "... Turns out that they were wrong and we were right, thank goodness."

Part of Video Visions' enduring success is its variety — not only in genres of movies, but in the formats they come in. In addition to a plethora of DVDs, the store still stocks VHS tapes, as well as VCRs to play them. 

"I have customers that'll come over 100 miles sometimes to get particular movies. Generally horror movies, for reason people get very infatuated with VHS horror movies," said Campbell.

And that appeared to be the case among customers who spoke to "You can always judge a great video store by its horror section," customer John Cribbs said. "... 'Terror in the Aisles' is a perfect example of the kind of movie you're gonna find in the horror section here."

Kyle, another customer who didn't give his last name, also remarked on the eccentric selection. "This was the first horror movie I ever saw, 'Prince of Darkness' ... Alice Cooper kills a guy with a bike in it … to find it on VHS is a very warm and nice feeling … might have to get this on general principle," he said.

For Campbell, it's all about keeping the act of physical browsing alive, an experience some people today might have never had.

"Video Visions is becoming less of a store and more of an attraction because there are so few video stores that people will come in here going, 'Oh my God, a video store,' like they're stepping back into their past, you know," said Campbell.

Added Kyle, "I remember coming into video stores as a kid, and it's like window shopping where you can pick and choose and you go by cover. It feels much more personal. ... This is an experience that you don't get with streaming."

"There's just something about finding that rare movie, and being able to actually, physically put it into your player and hit play," Cribbs said. "That really appeals to me."

What Campbell said he loves most is nerding out with his regulars. 

"Most of my customers, I've known for a long, long time," Campbell said. "They're my friends. It's the social atmosphere, it's fun to talk about movies."

He added that he now sees it as his duty to keep the store alive to preserve that experience. 

"I'm always awed at the fact that one guy can run this, the way he does, so efficiently," said Donovan.