Greenwich Avenue Video Store Takes on Netflix

By Andrea Swalec | July 28, 2011 7:35am | Updated on July 28, 2011 10:19am

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Tito Espinosa sometimes feels like he's working in a museum exhibit.

"Every Friday and Saturday night, people pass by and are like, 'Dude, check it out, a video store," said Espinosa, 30, who works at World of Video on Greenwich Avenue.

Despite the rise of mail-order and online movie services like Netflix, combined with the collapse of Blockbuster, World of Video is still a Greenwich Village fixture, 26 years after it rented its first movie.

Sean Gallagher, a manager at the 51 Greenwich Ave. store, says he's willing to battle giants like Netflix.

"There's no doubt that (Netflix) is hurting our business some, but given the price increase, hopefully that will bring people to us," he said, referring to Netflix' recent 60 percent rate hike this month.

Gallagher says the store's staff delivers the kind of personal customer service that no Netflix recommendation-generator can match.

"Everyone here can speak authoritatively on some genre," he said.

But he also admitted that rentals of adult films, which are discreetly tucked into the back of the store, account for about half of its business.

However, he said, the store has a lot more than x-rated movies to offer.

World of Video boasts a 30,000-title video library that includes most of the beloved Criterion Collection, a rare selection of silent films, foreign films organized by country, and hard-to-find VHS tapes of movies not available on DVD.

"If it hasn't come out on DVD, generally we have the VHS," Gallagher said.

TV networks often turn to the shop as a source of footage, Gallagher said.

"Someone calls and asks, 'Do you have a movie that features someone building a house?' and I say, 'Yeah, Beverly Hills Cop II," he said.

Membership costs $20 for the first year and $10.85 for subsequent years. Two-night video rentals are $4.75 for members and $5 for non-members for one-night rentals. 

About 20,000 people are on the shop's membership roster, and 8,000 are regular renters, said Gallagher, who has worked at the shop for eight years.

The shop is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 9 p.m.

Greenwich Village resident Vanessa Schmidt said she frequents World of Video for the film recommendations, and her 6-year-old long-haired Dachshund, Leopold, drags her in for the dog treats the employees keep behind the counter.