Netflix hasn’t killed this Utah video store — Bountiful’s Top Hat surviving and thriving

BOUNTIFUL — Set in the shadows of the Wasatch Range, a neon sign beckons customers to take a step back in time. Once inside this relic of the past, employees greet Top Hat Video patrons with a friendly welcome. Racks of movies fill the floor, boxes of candy line a wall and friends gather at the store that credits its 35 years of success to the human connection.

“There isn’t a day that we don’t see a customer that says don’t you dare close this door, and that is kind of encouraging,” said owner Lee Earl of Bountiful.

He and his wife Lona opened what was then called Adventureland Video on April 1, 1983, at Five Points Mall in Bountiful. After a name change and a move to several different locations, Top Hat Video is now at The Square at 2600.

When asked how Top Hat Video survived when so many other video stores have gone out of business, Lona is quick to point out it is not about survival but love.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Brendon Elwood, right, helps Robyn Christensen check out videos at Top Hat Video in Bountiful on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018.

“We don’t look at it as being a survival story. We look at it as a success story,” Lona said. “There are all kinds of media that bombards us and we have always loved what we are doing.”

That love has not come without a lot of hard work. Lee and Lona recalled the early days of the business. At a time when rooftop antennas were popular and satellite and cable were new, VHS tapes entered the entertainment industry. Armed with 10 VCRs and 197 movies, Lee and Lona went door to door peddling their new business venture.

“There was a lot of hesitation at first,” Lee recalled of the early days of video. “But once they (customers) tried it, they were on board.”

The inexpensive cost of renting and the ability to watch a movie in the privacy of one’s own home received a warm reception. Almost immediately Lee knew the business was going to be a success.

“It was fun. It was exciting and it kept growing,” Lee said.

Growth came through a variety of changes. The 197 videos that the Earls started with included VHS and Betamax format. As VHS pushed out Beta in popularity, and DVDs stormed the market, Top Hat Video grew with the times, including bringing on the new 4K format. Today, Top Hat has almost 34,000 videos in a 3,000-square-foot store.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Robyn Christensen shows some video options to her sons Ryker, 8, and Brody, 4, before choosing one to rent at Top Hat Video in Bountiful on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018.

“We’ve always been on top of the new technology,” said Shanna Earl of Salt Lake City. She is the manager of Top Hat Video and has been with the store for 22 years. “We’ve always been the first to carry DVD, the first to carry Blu-ray and …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Top stories


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