Story and photos by Nick Perkins
Do you remember?
It’s Friday night- any Friday night from your childhood, really. School was a drag, but at least you had something to look forward to. When you get home, you begrudgingly plug away at your homework, knowing the reward that awaits you on the other side. Finishing with time to spare, you eagerly await your dad getting home from work. Finally, you hear his car pull into the driveway and the weekend can begin, new memories can be made. You’ve waited all week for this moment.
You’re going to the video store.
For children of the 80’s and 90’s, going to the video store was not simply a means to an end- it was an event. As you walked through the doors of (Fill-In-The-Blank-Video-Store), you were greeted by the sound of the newest and coolest movies playing on the elevated television screens hanging on the walls. The entire store smells of popcorn.
Every time you walked into the video store it felt like an adventure. All around you were different stories that could transport you to another world. Whether it was a family comedy that you all could agree on (though you never could) or, as you became older, one of the sequels to A Nightmare on Elm Street, any time you went to the video store, it felt like Christmas.
Sadly, times changed, as they’re wont to do. Technology abounded and video stores became virtually obsolete. With the advent of, ahem, Redbox, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, On Demand, YouTube, Crackle, Vudu, Sling, et. al., convenience became more important than experience. Suddenly, trips to the video store were replaced by clicks of the mouse and somehow, we forgot just how special those trips were.
For Odetta Bredenberg, owner and operator of Videos to Go, those special trips to the video store are moments that she is determined to preserve. Videos to Go is the last man standing, so to speak, in terms of remaining video stores in Casper, Wyoming. It’s also one of only a handful of video stores left in the entire state. Casper used to have at least five video stores in town (two Blockbusters, Thousands of Videos, Hollywood Video and VTG), yet all but Videos to Go fell by the wayside. That being said, it’s still a struggle to compete with all of the other various platforms that are available.
“It’s different,” Bredenberg said in regards to being the only video store in town. “It’s not like everyone rushes here to pick up movies anymore. It’s a challenge, because of the internet and Redbox- it’s still a challenge being the only video store in town.”
That challenge is one she accepts, however. It’s also one she doesn’t take lightly. In addition to being the owner, she is also the only employee. Videos to Go is open Tuesday-Saturday, from 12-8 PM (9PM on Friday and Saturday) and she is there for the entire duration. This truly is a “mom and pop shop,” and it has been since the moment Brendenberg and her husband purchased the store from the Rogers family 18 years ago.
Throughout those 18 years, a lot has changed. VHS tapes became DVD’s became Blu Rays. People started watching movies on their computers and their cell phones. Families who once came together every Friday for “movie night” and had to agree on one movie can now sit in the same room, watching 5 different things. A lot has changed, but through it all Videos to Go still stands
What makes Videos to Go special?
Walking through the door of Videos to Go, one can’t help but be transported into another time, another world. There is always a movie playing on an overhead television. There is always popcorn popping in the old school, theater-style popcorn maker. There are always rows and rows of movies that can’t be seen on any of the digital platforms that are available. And there is always, always, Odetta.
Standing behind the counter, and always willing to offer a smile and a suggestion, Odetta Bredenberg has been a staple of Mills, Wyoming (the ‘suburb’ in Casper where Videos to Go is located) for 18 years. In those 18 years, customers have become friends and friends have become family.
When asked what the best part of her job has been, Brendenberg didn’t hesitate when saying “[The best part has been] all of the people I’ve met in the last 18 years- people that were steady customers who became good friends.” For almost 2 decades, Brendenberg has been not only the face of Videos to Go, but also its heart and its soul. She has watched her customers grow up in front of her.
“Many people would come in with their kids and now those kids are coming in with kids of their own,” she said.
The problem, of course, is that more and more kids don’t even know what a video store is.
When the final Blockbuster Video store closed its doors in early 2014, the writing had already been on the wall for quite some time. Redbox, a kiosk that rented out movies via credit card transactions, arrived in 2002 and Netflix, originally a mail-based movie distributor, as well as a streaming service, had been around since 1997. Almost out of nowhere, though, it seemed like these two services completely took over the video rental business. Once people realized they could spend less time in public and more time in sweat pants, video stores disappeared, one by one.
Certain video stores tried to hold on as long as possible, but the corporations behind them knew when it was time to call it quits. This is why the only video stores that we have left are family-owned, small businesses that really do survive off the kindness of strangers.
The struggle is real
For Videos To Go, every day is a struggle. Every day is a challenge, but another day that they survived. Brendenberg sacrifices a lot to keep her store running- time, money and even her other passions. In addition to film, she is also passionate about music. She has played the bass guitar in various bands but, unfortunately, the best gigs take place on Friday and Saturday nights and those are the nights that most people rent movies, so she remains behind the counter instead of standing on a stage. That is the passion and the love and the sacrifice that Videos to Go is built on.
Time has proven that the movies that people often love the most are movies that tell the story of the underdog. Whether it’s Rocky, Dorothy, or The Little Engine That Could, everybody loves an underdog and that’s exactly what Videos To Go is. It is one store, one woman, really, who is fighting what many people believe to be a losing battle. Like Rocky, she’s not in this for the money or the glory. Like the Titans, she just wants people to remember. Like Scarface, she just wants to say hello to her friends. Like Dorothy, there is no place like home and for Odetta Bredenberg, Videos to Go is home. She will run her store as long as she can, “unless it gets to the point where it’s not paying for itself anymore,” she said.
In a world that has been built on convenience, while sacrificing moments, Videos to Go is committed to being the place where moments can still take place and where movies can still bring us together. Videos to Go is more than just a video store. It is a remnant of days gone by; a reminder of simpler, and in some cases, better times. It’s a piece of history that has provided smiles for more than 30 years. For Brendenberg, it’s personal.
“It’s kind of my baby,” she said. “I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t running it.”
So now imagine that you can bring your family back to that simpler time: it’s Friday night. It’s been a long week and you haven’t seen your family much. Everybody’s schedule has been hectic- a menagerie of chaos. There were sports and dance classes and meetings and Zumba. But, for once, you are all home on a Friday night. You want to do something as a family. You want to spend an evening with the people who you love the most and you want it to be something that will make them smile for years to come. So you think back to your childhood. What made you the happiest? What gave you the best memories? Do you remember the posters hanging on the wall of upcoming attractions? Do you remember the shelf of candy next to the checkout counter?
Remember the walls that were lined with any movie you could ever want?
Remember the cover art of the VHS tape, which was the deciding factor on whether you would bring it home or not?
Remember being able to rent one movie and one, just one, video game?
Remember arguing with your sister about who got to pick this week?
Remember looking up and seeing your dad with his arm around your mom as they picked a movie to watch after you went to sleep?
Remember the video store?
Learn more about Videos to go by visiting their facebook page or visit the store at 4652 W Yellowstone Hwy Casper, WY 82604.