Store Offers a Return to Video Rentals

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

Fetch A Flick on Jersey City’s Central Avenue is just a few weeks old, but walking inside feels like a time warp.

“When a customer returns it,” says manager Nilesh Maheshwary of a DVD rental, “you always ask: ‘Did you like the movie?’ So if three or four customers liked the horror movie, then you can tell people.”

Nilesh Maheshwary has worked in the video rental industry for 25 years. The West Coast Video he managed closed in 2010, and he opened his own store in Jersey City Heights. But three months ago, unforeseen tax expenses forced him to close shop. Neighborhood regulars wanted their video store back.

“What they said is, ‘We don’t care if you’re big, small, whatever, just find a place and open up,'” says Maheshwary.

Fetch a Flick opened in this smaller location in August. Maheshwary says some people think he’s crazy for opening a new video rental business in the age of Netflix, Redbox, Hulu, Amazon, on demand, iTunes, and of course, pirating. But he says that there’s something lost in not wandering a video store with family or friends on a Friday night.

“People like to come in. Parents are looking for their movies, kids are looking for their movies, it’s like a family thing,” he says.
“Over here, you can come and actually browse.”

Joe Cadigan agrees. The Jersey City resident has Netflix and Amazon Prime, but still faithfully comes to Fetch A Flick for rentals.

“It’s kind of good to talk to an actual person, rather than have an algorithm tell you what they think you want to see. I like to be able to see the actual movies themselves,” he says, “because you never know what’s going to pop out at you.”

There’s also the matter of selection. Maheshwary says some studios will not allow films to be rented through Red Box until a month after the DVD release for fear of impacting sales, but he buys and rents DVDs as soon as they’re available.

“You can rent it from me before you can get it anywhere else,” he says.

It’s also the more convenient option for some customers. Maheshwary says other methods of renting movies can require credit cards, which is a roadblock for some people — particularly those who are undocumented. He also has customers like truck drivers, who may want week-long rentals while they’re on the road.

Still, Maheshwary’s fighting an uphill battle. Jersey City resident Julia Miller says, “We normally watch our movies through Netflix.”

Residents Joseph Guzzi, George Ferguson, and Nicole Ramos say:

“I go to the movies, I watch them on demand.”

“Netflix and Amazon.”

“Netflix… and [my daughter] watches everything on her iPad or my phone.”

Does Maheshwary think there’s a place for shops like his? “No. Not much,” he says. “[The] video store is becoming like a dinosaur thing because people’s options are growing so much.”

But Maheshwary says his ability to rent new releases first keeps him afloat, and that’s great news for film fans like Judith Rosa.

“Sometimes they don’t really have it online, I’d like to go over there,” says Rosa. “The person who works there knows about movies, so they tell me how it is.”

Browsing through the video store may feel familiar, but some things have changed. It’s not all about the DVDs and blu-rays anymore. Fetch a Flick customers can opt to buy films via a digital download code.