DELL RAPIDS (AP) – It wasn't the digital era that forced Dan Ahlers to close his video rental store.
When national behemoths such as Blockbuster folded under competition from Netflix, Redbox and online streaming, his store held its own because he established a strong bond with customers, Ahlers said.
Instead, mounting supply-side problems prompted his decision to shutter Video Plus, Ahlers said. Hollywood wasn't supporting his needs as the owner of a video rental store.
Posters and marketing materials went away a while ago. Orders from vendors started coming late and mixed-up. And then Disney – which is merging with Fox – refused to sell to him directly, Ahlers said.
"These things make it difficult to run a business that really has survived the digital age because of customer service," he said.
Ahlers is planning to close Video Plus in mid-March, but recently had his last day of rentals, the Argus Leader reported. He also began selling DVDs from his inventory of 17,000 movies.
Video Plus is one of South Dakota's last stand-alone video rental stores. Movie Mania in Pierre and Mr. Movies in Rapid City are some of the other holdouts in an increasingly shrinking field. Northview Video in Aberdeen still keeps a couple of shelves dedicated to DVDs, but owner Marian Osborn transitioned to selling party supplies in 2007 and has continued to shrink her video rental inventory.
She keeps it as a resource for the community, but has thought about ending rentals, Osborn said.
"We toy with whether you keep it," she said.
Ahlers recently greeted Baltic resident Charlene Iverson by name when she walked in looking for a copy of "The Sisters Brothers" starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix. As Iverson searched the shelves, Ahlers dug a Blu-ray Disc out from behind the cash register and talked about how a couple of customers had been raving about the film.
It's that sort of interaction that Iverson will miss, she said.
"You come here, it's more personal," she said.
Ahlers was the original tenant of the small strip mall when Video Plus opened in 1999. Fresh out of college and working at Menards, Ahlers' friends told him he should open a store because of his love of movies, he said.
His customers are his neighbors. He represented them in Pierre when he was elected to state House of Representatives as a Democrat. He teaches their children at the Dell Rapids School District, where he fills in as a substitute teacher.
Some have told him he should try out a career in sales after he shuts down, but Ahlers isn't sure that's the right move.
His favorite part of running Video Plus was always the connection he made with people, Ahlers said.
"You earn that trust of your customers," he said.