Queen City Nerve

Charlotte's Cultural Pulse

VisArt Diaries: On the Road
A southeastern video store tour

By Joshua Robbins

February 19, 2019

Touring in a band can be a lot of fun, and getting to play music in a front of a new audience every night can be rewarding. It’s mind blowing that anyone outside of the local scene cares — in our case, cares even more than the local scene, to be honest. But touring days are often filled with driving many hours in a rusted out van and stopping at whatever equivalent that town has for QT, Sheetz or if you’re lucky, Wawa. This column isn’t about that, though, so let’s talk about video stores, shall we? The impetus of this installment was: If we have a great video store like Visart in Charlotte, then these other cities must have something comparable, right?

The answer is yes and no. While video stores are making a small comeback, it’s nowhere close to the boom vinyl has seen, which in turn has led to a boom for record stores in the past few years. Video is an even smaller niche market than records and even comics. The rise of the latter two has aided in the rebirth in the video store, but with the advent of streaming, it can only help so much. While streaming is all well and good, when you look for movies online, you’re missing out on the atmosphere of the store, connecting with fellow film geeks and possibly stumbling across something that might not be available on streaming services. If you’ve followed me through these last few installments, you already know my feelings on this, so let’s move on.

A tough decision at Family Video.

The first stop of our tour led us to Greenville, South Carolina, and right outside of Greenville is a small town called Maudlin. In Maudlin there’s a video store called Family Video, and when you walk in you’re instantly wooshed back to the bygone-era of Hollywood and Blockbuster Video; carpeted floors, boxes of candy and well-lit wooden racks filled with DVDs and video games. Family Video is a chain that has around 671 stores across the U.S., with a huge concentration in the Midwest. The closest location to Charlotte is in Hickory.

Next up we ended up in Atlanta, Georgia, home of the amazing video store Videodrome. If you’ve been to Little Five Points in ATL, you’ve probably seen Videodrome’s mural, even if you haven’t ventured inside. You should venture inside, however, as it’s a cozy spot with a lot of good stuff packed into a small space. It’s clean and well curated. If I lived in Atlanta, I’d purposely buy a home close to Videodrome so I could be a daily patron of such a fine establishment.

We finally made our way to Florida — first stop Tallahassee, where I had Cap City Video Lounge on my list of spots to visit. I didn’t find much information about this space before arriving. I wasn’t sure if it was even open still, and if it was, I still wasn’t sure if it was the adults-only variety video store. We showed up at the location and found the windows all greyed out, so that nobody can see in — not a great sign. We opened the door and BAM, it’s a treasure trove of memorabilia, VHS, DVDs and all types of other amazing staples of nostalgia.

Josh Robbins at Cap City.

Similar to Visart, Cap City has a screening room in which they hold community events and host film and karaoke nights. Owner Kevin Cole informed us they were in the process of moving locations but let us know that the new spot would be open in April. Best of luck in the move! If you ever find yourself in Tallahassee, I would highly recommend stopping in and buying some VHS tapes or just sitting down and watching whatever movie they’re playing in the store.

Next stop: Tampa, Florida. Tampa, Dunedin and St. Petersburg are really special places and if I ever get the chance to retire (which will never happen), I vow to end up in one of these fine cities. It’s a retiree’s paradise.

The Grindhouse storefront.

We swung into Grindhouse Video and, just like our previous stop, it was a remarkable paradise of long-dead physical formats. The store also had a really great selection of action figures, soundtracks on vinyl and even an insane room filled solely with VHS. To be honest, we were running a little late for our show in St. Petersburg, but I spent as much time as I could spinning around the room admiring all of the video tapes. If you find yourself in Tampa, I recommend going to Grindhouse, then going next door to Nerd Out Comics then making the short drive to Microgroove Records. It’s the trifecta of nostalgia nerd retail. If you make it to Microgroove, ask for Keith Ulrey. His insight is invaluable. 

Then it was on to the land of Disney and Mickey Mouse ears: Orlando, Florida. Pro tip: If you can’t find a decent video store, your next best bet is to find the closest record store. So we hit Park Ave CDs. The name is a bit misleading — this location had plenty of vinyl, too. On the way out of town the next day, we happened upon a place called Stardust Video & Coffee. I couldn’t really figure out if you were allowed to rent the movies, buy them or just hold onto their dusty sleeves as a relic of a bygone era. Nothing appeared to be alphabetized or curated in any sort of arranged or logical order. The coffee and used book selection was nice, though, so I didn’t leave entirely empty handed.

We made the long trek to Miami and landed in the Wynwood neighborhood, which is akin to Noda/Plaza Midwood in Charlotte, but with all the spice Miami is known for. We walked to Dracula Video only to find that, sadly, it’s no longer there. But alas, a sign told us to go to another address, and when we arrived there they were still unloading boxes and setting up a new location. I hope to make it back to Miami soon and finally experience Dracula Video in all its glory. Best of luck on the reopening!

With about a week left of tour, I ran out of video stores to go to on our way back up through Georgia. We passed through Savannah, home of Graveface Records and its subsidiary of Terror Vision Records, which specializes in soundtracks and other movie-related memorabilia. I’d highly recommend the Spookies soundtrack or their amazing Unsolved Mysteries soundtrack. I talked with one of the employees and he mentioned they were working on opening a museum of oddities, which I can’t wait to see during my next trip to Savannah.

All in all, I brought back six VHS tapes spanning the ’60s through the ’90s, an Ernest zine and Fievel Goes West trading cards. Being an adult on the road is fun, but it’s good to be home. 

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