|Owner Christine Kim (l.) with manager Sarah Silver|
In this age of Netflix, Hulu, and rampant video store closings, it's refreshing to find one that still gets it right, with friendly, passionate, knowledgeable employees and a diverse, expertly curated selection. Get Reel Video, on Fifth Avenue and St Marks Place, is the only remaining video store in the North Slope, and it has become a haven for film buffs and casual viewers alike.
Owner Christine Kim opened its doors in July 2005, just as mega-chains like Blockbuster began to give way to the convenience of Netflix.
"It just seemed like something fun, something that was needed in the neighborhood," said Kim. "Netflix wasn't such competition then, and the neighborhood back then was more artsy, with more people who appreciated art-house films."
Where there was a desire for lesser-known films, Get Reel certainly delivered. While you can find your share of new releases in stock, it's the indies, documentaries, and art house films that have put the store on the map, as well as the way its films are categorized.
While chains like Blockbuster classify films according to genre, Kim has laid out her films based on cinephile-friendly categories like Directors, Criterion, "Movies You Probably Don't Know," and Monthly Theme (this month it's "Path of Life").
Although the demographic has changed slightly in the past five years, indie films still comprise about half of all movies rented, and Christine has a feeling why the store has such a loyal following.
"Netflix still has his drawbacks," she explained. "There's no customer interaction, there's no customer service, and there's no instant gratification. When you're in the mood for a movie, you can get it immediately if you come to the video store."
Instant gratification is only one aspect of the store's success, though. "What really keeps Get Reel in business is my staff," said Kim. "They're incredibly knowledgeable, they all have a background in film, and they've really created a community."
It's clear from looking around that the staff really does know their stuff. The shelves are dotted with notecards pointing out staff picks and recommendations, and chatting with them is like taking a film school class.
"Becoming a member here is more than just joining a video store," explained Kim. "It's like joining a community film club. People come here to hang out, meet, and chat about film. Sometimes I come in and see people sitting on the floor! If we had more space we'd have a coffee shop in here too."
While business is still brisk, Christine knows that the good times may not last forever, especially with rents expected to rise as the Barclays Center nears completion just a few blocks away.
"We're taking it one day at a time," she said. "We're hoping to stay, but it depends on the customers. We have to stay on our toes and be creative."
"When I ask people why they shop here, they tell me that it's because of the experience," she said. "It's like going to the bookstore. You can browse, read reviews, chat, and get recommendations. Everyone says to increase prices, but I never will. I just want people to see movies."
Get Reel Video, 70 Fifth Avenue Brooklyn NY 11217. 718-638-0120.