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Last North Side Blockbuster to Close

By Alisa Hauser | June 8, 2013 11:07am | Updated on June 10, 2013 9:24am
 A Blockbuster at 1303 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park is scheduled to close July 21. 
Wicker Park Blockbuster Shutters
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WICKER PARK —  Though a bright yellow "store closing" sign in front of Wicker Park's Blockbuster assures "this location only," the truth of the matter is there aren't many outposts of the once-ubiquitous video-rental store left.

News that Blockbuster, 1303 N. Milwaukee Ave., is closing isn't surprising, as other North Side locations have shut their doors in recent months, following the video store chain's decline.

In February, the Blockbuster at 4640 W. Irving Park Road near Portage Park's Six Corners closed. Another location in Logan Square closed last summer.

The Blockbuster that's long held court in the northern end of West Town's Wicker Park Commons shopping plaza just north of Ashland and Milwaukee avenues since 1999 is set to close July 21.

A store-closing sale is ongoing, offering discounts on DVDs and other merchandise, including furniture and fixtures.

Late Thursday, Kalli, 26, a Blockbuster employee who has been with the chain for nearly seven years, said that once Wicker Park's Blockbuster closes, the nearest Blockbuster will be in Elmwood Park. Another Blockbuster location remains at 6639 S. Pulaski Road, according to the video store's website, but an employee at a Berwyn Blockbuster said the Pulaski store soon will close as well.

"The regulars were very upset [by the closing]. We have a lot of people that are loyal to the Blockbuster brand and have come here after their Blockbuster closed," said Kalli, who declined to give her last name. 

Kevin McKay and his girlfriend, Sherese George, used to be regulars at the Wicker Park Blockbuster. But they said they have not been renting movies from the store in recent months.

"Redbox," George said, referring to the video-rental vending machines found in front of grocery stores and numerous pharmacies.

"I guess the Redbox on every corner has hurt [Blockbuster]," George said.

It has, and Blockbuster's decline has been ongoing for a decade since the rise of Netflix and other popular video services.

George said that "the sad thing" about using a Redbox to rent movies instead of a Blockbuster is the loss of customer service.

"If the machine is out of a movie, it's out. Here you can talk to someone, and they can try to get it for you from another store," George said.

McKay added: "It's friendly here, with guest assistance and they recognize you, know you."

Larry Powers, a representative for the Wicker Park Commons shopping plaza, said that Blockbuster's lease was up and Vitamin Shoppe is expected to open in "late 2013."

Powers said Blockbuster opened in the Wicker Park shopping plaza in 1999.

Dish Network Corp., which saved the video-rental chain from bankruptcy in 2011, when it acquired Blockbuster for $320 million, implemented plans to shutter 300 Blockbusters around the country and lay off about 3,000 employees earlier this year.