Sue Simion likes the entertainment industry, at least that is what she tells herself as she looks at the meager takings from a night of renting movies from her Brookfield Video store. ''It was not always this way,'' she stated, ''I used to have a movie reservation list several pages long when there was a new release coming out.''
As a 25-year veteran of the video rental business, Sue has seen technology advance from cumbersome VHS tapes, through various gaming stations, to DVDs and now Blu-Ray discs. She started in the industry after she lost her job when Valley View, a well-established Brookfield market, closed.
Looking for work, she turned to her sister-in-law who had a booming video rental outlet / tanning salon in Vienna. After five years with her, Sue decided to strike out on her own. She bought a video store in Hubbard but taking a tip from her sister-in-law, she brought in a paint-ball store as well. It lasted 13 years.
Before they became widely available to the public, VHS tapes cost $100 for purchase as rental copies. It was an expensive business to run. Today, discs can cost as little as $15.
During this time, the big chains of video outlets were beginning to move into the Mahoning and Shenango valleys. Sue smiles as she names her former competitors, all of whom are now defunct. ''Blockbuster, Movie Gallery, Giant Eagle, Hollywood,'' they are all gone.
It was a bigger competitor that forced her to sell her Hubbard store and come to Brookfield. ''Family Video moved in and I moved out.''
She has owned and operated her Brookfield store for more than seven years. Sue shares space with her husband Luke's radio-controlled plane business. Their son Jason works as the ''resident geek,'' informally helping customers who are having problems with their video viewing equipment. Netflix, and other online streaming of videos and the Red Box have all cut into her business.
She carries two copies of older titles and purchases five copies of new releases for rent. ''I have about 5,000 titles in the store right now,'' she explained. She also tries to keep up with television series. ''That can be costly,'' Sue admitted. ''If a disc is damaged, I have to replace the entire series. I cannot buy just one disc.''
Many customers visit with the store's mascot, Winston, the Lasa-Poo, who is guaranteed to want his ears rubbed.
Luke's RC plane business keeps them busy as well. ''We are gone most every weekend to RC plane shows all over the country,'' she said.
So why, in the face of big box stores and online streaming, does she stay open? ''So I can watch movies,'' she laughs.
''No, seriously, I just like people.''
It is a niche market. Despite the advances in technology, there are some people who do not even have a computer at home let alone a smart phone, iPad or some other hand-held device. It is for these people that businesses like Sue's exist.
With the ever-changing technology, who knows for how long?
O'Connor is a Brookfield resident. Email her at email@example.com