Best place for VHS nerds
As the digital age continues its advance, classic mediums of entertainment struggle to compete against newer, faster technologies. This was the case for video rental stores such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, with hundreds of locations nationwide closing shop for good once video-streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon became available in every household with a smart TV.
Despite this, Awesome Video, Sacramento’s last operating video rental store, remains steadfast. With 50,000 DVDs and VHS copies lining the shelves organized into the usual genres of horror, comedy and drama, as well as carefully curated sections for documentaries, foreign films and art film collections, Awesome Video is a throwback. A relic.
Step inside the 6,000-square-foot space and it feels like the ’90s all over again. Here, framed movie posters decorate the walls, and an old cash register dings with every transaction. It’s reminiscent of a time when parents and kids browsed the aisles for new releases and purchased candy and popcorn before returning home for an evening filled with cinema.
For owner Maithu Bui, her store is like a museum of movie titles both old and new that she happily shares with her regular customers, and it’s been this way for more than 20 years. Bui immigrated to the United States from Vietnam in 1992 and started working at Awesome Video, which was then owned by her friends. Two years later, she took over and has been renting movies to videophiles ever since.
“When I came to the United States, I was just amazed at the culture and I wanted to learn more of the language. By watching movies, it helped me with language and I just got into it,” Bui says.
Bui enjoys old Disney movies like The Lion King for its music and storyline, but she also admires classic actresses including Katharine Hepburn. Over the years, Bui says she’s watched her customers’ families grow before her eyes. She also befriended longtime customer and video crusader Soreath Hok, who now runs the store’s social media presence in exchange for free video rentals.
“Growing up, it was always a treat for me to go to a video store, and Sacramento still has this treasure,” Hok says. “It’s a great place if you want to have a face-to-face experience and you want to touch things again. It’s like being in a record store and digging.”
4524 Freeport Boulevard, (916) 731-4720, www.facebook.com/awesomevideostore.