Staff react to Family Video closing

NILES — The days of scouring the aisles looking for the perfect movie to rent and watch are coming to an end in Niles.

On Tuesday, Keith Hoogland, president of Family Video, released a statement announcing the video rental and retail company would be closing its doors across the country after 42 years.

“It’s the end of an era,” said Scott Thalman, manager of the Family Video location at 715 W. Chicago Road in Niles. The Niles store has been operating for 26 years.

Thalman has been the manager of the location for 16 years. He addresses customer questions and phone calls about what is for sale with ease as both steadily come into the location. In between, he greets each customer whenever the door opens with a friendly “hello.”

The sign along the road, bearing the signature orange and green logo alerts passers-by the store is now closing: “movies, games and fixtures on sale.”

He said the store has been a fun career.

“I love movies. The people who come in here loves movies. We all kind of celebrated together,” Thalman said. “It’s an interactive environment for us and the customers. We know them all by name.”

He said many have come in to let him know how sorry they are to hear the stores will be closing.

“It’s an industry that has evolved greatly over the last number of years,” Thalman said. “It’s been fun. I wanted to hang in there as long as I could, and as long as we could stay open to be a part of it.”

For Ryan Leaf, a district manager for Family Video, he will be transitioning with Family Video’s parent company, Highland Ventures Ltd., into Legacy Commercial Property as a leasing agent.

“I’m getting into property management, leasing and sales,” Leaf said. “I’m excited for that challenge. I’ll be transitioning to that over the next few months. It’s a different pace of work, and I’m enjoying it.”

Before the move is complete, however, Leaf is spending time at the stores in his district where he has gotten to know many of the managers and workers. He is hoping to do his part in helping many of the workers transition into their next positions elsewhere as the stores sell the stock and close their doors.

Leaf said 2020 hastened the business’ closing, with stores across the region needing to be closed for months at a time due to COVID-19 mandates. The lower foot traffic after re-opening, and fewer movies coming out from Hollywood to DVD, were hits the video rental stores could not recover from.

“I know myself along with other district and regional managers are doing the best they can to make sure their staff can land on their feet,” Leaf said. “I’m trying to mentor all the staff through filling out resumes, helping apply for jobs, providing myself as a reference. I’ve written a number of recommendation letters. My heart goes out to everybody.”

He said he has been fortunate to have led teams who picked up their jobs very quickly, and who continue learning on their toes.

“Without our local managers and local staffs, [Family Video] would not have lasted as long as they did,” Leaf said. “I’m extremely proud of them, and feel fortunate to have worked with such a talented and willing staff. I know they’re going to come out of this well, with a little hard work and creativity.”

The Niles Family Video location is set to be closed by the end of February. If the stock of movies, games and fixtures sell out before, the store may close earlier.

“A lot of people grew up as kids going to [the Niles] store with their parents grabbing a movie or getting movies with friends,” Leaf said. “Three generations of people and memories. It’s really touching to hear, and it’s sad to close the doors. It’s something still setting in. We are sure going to miss being a part of the communities.”

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