We've heard it before, but this time it's apparently for good: Crystal Video is closing its doors.
In February 2009, the quirky neighborhood independent video store located on South Higgins almost closed due to economic hardship before an altruistic financial backer stepped in at the 11th hour. But despite some temporary backing, the strain of on-demand movies and access to Netflix has finally taken its toll.
Below is a statement from Jace Laakso of Crystal Video:
It is with great sadness that I announce the closing of Crystal Video. It has been an institution in Missoula for over 23 years, first as part of Crystal Theatre and then on its own since 1997. Its collection of unique international and independent films on tape and DVD has kept it afloat while other video businesses have come and gone.
Unfortunately the economy and the increased competition from numerous sources such as on-line movies, Netflicks and cable has caught up with Crystal Video. This has made it very difficult to continue operating as a small local business.
On Friday, May 14 at 1 PM, this incredible collection of videos and all assets, furniture and fixtures will go on sale. The sale will continue through two weekends and if necessary, a third weekend culminating on Sunday, May 23.
To all our dedicated customers, we thank you for your support and love of great film.
We have a call into Laakso for more information and will let you know when we learn more.
UPDATE: We spoke with Laakso earlier today. He was the first owner of Crystal Video when it opened in the same space as the Crystal Theatre (in the lobby where The Silk Road is now). He sold the shop to another owner who then sold it to Tim Huffman a year later. But Laakso still carried the contract, and last month he had to step in.
"Tim was paying me every month but basically he defaulted and so I have had to take over the business part," Laakso says. "Now I'm going to sell everything to recover my costs as well as to pay a couple of other creditors out there. I probably won't get back what I'm owed, but as long as I can get something out of the deal it would be better than nothing."
Laakso insists Huffman did what he could in a tough situation.
"I really appreciate the effort that Tim put into the store," he says. "I just want to make sure that Tim gets his props for doing the best that he could to keep the store going."
A call to Huffman has yet to be returned.
Laakso chalks up the financial issues as an inevitable result of movie accessibility, whether it be Netflix, Red Box, the ability of people to get cable movies or to download films from the Internet.
"I'm really disappointed that it's come to this," Laakso says. "It's a sad day for Missoula to lose such a great collection of foreign films and independents. But it's the economy."