Exactly 24 years and 3 months ago today–October 4, 1984–a partner and I opened Westside Video in Bend, Oregon. It was the beginning of the home video market. Within a year I met Lindi, the woman who would become my wife, bought out my partners, and the store became our family business. Our children did homework there, watched movies there, and worked there. They learned about customer service and running a business. They grew up there.

Ours was one of 5 video rental stores in town when we opened. By the early 1990’s there were over 90 places in town that rented movies. A couple of the major chains showed up and the small stores began to close. Before long we were able to accurately advertise Westside Video as “the last of the Mom and Pops.”

We sold the store in 1998 when our kids were grown and no longer wanted to work there. Lindi worked for the Chamber of Commerce and I went into politics. There have been three owners since us.

Westside Video is closing today. Damian, the current owner, has watched his business decline precipitously this year. I suspect a combination of Netflix, downloads, and the economy in general have all contributed.

In our community, as in communities across America, we’ve seen many businesses, large and small, shut down. People are hurting. And people are also reaching out to each other. We’re supporting each other. We can look at times like these and dwell on all the pain we’re experiencing. We can look at times like these and be thankful that our attention can now be focused on each other; on a simpler lifestyle; on things that don’t cost money. We can support those who need our help.

Damian hung in there probably longer than he should have for his own financial well-being. He hung in there for his customers and he also hung in there for his employees. In particular I’ll miss Tina, a single mom who always remembered my name and would call when a movie we were looking for came back in.

These are difficult times. We are faced with a lousy economy, wars that are killing innocent people, an uncertain future. And we will persevere.

I put on an old Westside Video t-shirt I’ve had for close to 20 years (I’ll admit it’s a bit of a tight fit) and walked over to the store tonight to be there on the last night just as I was there on the first night. I spoke with friends who have been customers for all 24 years. I spoke with kids who weren’t even born when we opened Westside.

I congratulated Damian and Tina for the new adventures that await them. What I’m so impressed with is that tonight, rather than quietly locking the doors and walking home in the dark, they are celebrating. Westside Video is open for one final party. Five bands will play–one after another–in cramped quarters to a large crowd of supporters. The smiles outnumber the tears.

Westside Video. More than two decades. It’s been a good ride. And on we go…