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The Story all Over: Even adult movies couldn’t save outlet from competitive strength of chains, Internet

Milwaukee- Even titles such as “Naughty Nanny” couldn’t save Rod Eglash’s video store.

Rod Eglash, owner of RSE Video, and his daughter, Michele Eglash-Roitburd, are closing the store in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood at the end of June. Competition from Blockbuster, Netflix and video-on-demand from cable TV providers has hurt the video store.

RSE Video, a rental and sales shop that he’s operated in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood for 24 years, will close at the end of June. His independent video store is among a dying breed that has been trying to survive against big national chains, and now, the Internet.

“We’ve been fighting chains and competition since day one,” Eglash, 68, said. Now, after years of declining sales, he will retire and liquidate his inventory.

RSE wouldn’t have lasted this long, Eglash said, if it weren’t for sales and rentals of adult videos, which make up half the store’s revenue.

“It’s more polite to call it ‘adult,’ ” Eglash said, not porn. Eglash also has Disney movies, and some families will rent both kinds of videos in one trip, he said. “If we didn’t have ‘adult,’ we couldn’t have made it. People have a right to watch adult movies.”

RSE survived through the years by serving a variety of tastes and by taking special orders for hard-to-find movies. In 2004, Milwaukee Magazine rated RSE as the best store in the city for indie film rentals.

RSE’s revenue peaked at $1.3 million in the late 1980s. But that was before the onslaught of Blockbuster, the Internet, Netflix and video-on-demand from cable TV providers.

Now, annual sales are only $350,000, and rent for the shop is $3,500 a month.

“The store breaks even now,” Eglash said. But that’s because he doesn’t pay himself a salary anymore, now that he’s eligible for Social Security.

The Yellow Pages lists 93 video stores in the Milwaukee metropolitan area, including 36 Blockbuster locations. A number of the independents serve special niche interests: Latino, Asian, comics and action figures, Christian and gaming stores.

Eglash was one of more than 200 independent video store owners who joined in a lawsuit about eight years ago against Blockbuster Video and two movie studios, alleging price fixing for videos that was favorable to Blockbuster. Eglash received a settlement of about $46,000 from the suit, he said.

Eglash is a Milwaukee native who spent 21 years as a program director for the Jewish Community Center before opening his video business. He also ran a coffeehouse, Id and Eggo, at three locations at various times between 1970 and 1976.

The liquidation sale of 15,000 movies and games will start April 1 at the store, at 118 E. Dakota St.

Independent video rental stores all over the country are facing the same fate, said Eglash, president of the Wisconsin dealers’ trade association. But it’s difficult to find exact numbers.

The Entertainment Merchants Association, a national trade group based in California, doesn’t keep track. Carrie Diedrich, spokeswoman for the association, estimates that 30% to 35% of all video stores in the country are independent operators such as RSE.

“It’s less than it was six or seven years ago,” Diedrich said.


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