"They're not ex-cons, and they don't have records. They're cool guys." That's how Rebecca Latsios describes the two people who are buying Scarecrow Video from her and her husband George.
The future was not always so bright. Founded by George and Rebecca, Scarecrow made a name for itself as the place to go for hard-to-find videos. Their policy was to buy everything, the rarer the better, and they would do so whether they could afford it or not. Their vision for the store was a boon for film lovers but bad for business, and bankruptcy reared its ugly head. Bankruptcy court allowed them to search for a buyer for the store instead of breaking up the collection, and a couple of years ago, they did. They found a buyer. Then they found out about that buyer's checkered financial and legal past. Luckily, they couldn't raise the money to finalize the deal, and control over the store reverted back to George and Rebecca. But they still needed to sell the store and pay off their creditors.
Enter Carl Tostevin and John Dauphiny, two customers who work at Microsoft. Not long ago, Tostevin walked into the store looking for a hard-to-find DVD, and asked how the new owners were doing. When he found out there were no new owners, that the store was still for sale, he talked to Dauphiny and they decided to buy it. Now, this isn't a Paul Allen-style investment, saving a Seattle landmark in order to turn a hefty profit, nor is it pure philanthropy. "It really doesn't come down to money at all," says Dauphiny.
"Scarecrow isn't really an 'investment' to us. We love movies, and Scarecrow and movies are like peas in a pod."
The biggest question now is about what will change with the new owners. Luckily, these are customers who decided to buy it, and not people in the business of video stores. Tostevin says, "We're most interested in preserving the store, keeping it growing." They're leaving the Blockbuster and Hollywood Video stores to their dozens of new releases, keeping the focus on the odd and hard-to-find videos.
They're also implementing a new computer system that can keep track of the vast inventory, as the previous system has been maxed out to the point where they had to take movies off the shelves just to make room in the database for the newer ones. The staff won't change (now they get insurance too!), and George and Rebecca are contractually obligated to stay, which everybody is happy about, especially George and Rebecca.
Meanwhile, Tostevin and Dauphiny will enter the business slowly, learning from the people who are already there. They've also got some good ideas, like adding drop boxes around town so people don't have to go so far to return videos they've gone out of their way to rent.
Any last words? Dauphiny says, "Scarecrow's back! We're going to make sure it stays healthy. It's one of Seattle's native stores, and we're going to make sure it'll stay around." To that I say, hip-hip hooray!
Copyright © 1999 TheStranger.com
Update: "Goodbye, My Friend."