It looked more like a Westfield Mall at Christmas. Saturday was supposed to ring down the curtain on Kensington Video, but with lines stretching out both front and back doors, Warden Winnie decided to grant a one-week stay of execution.
The store will remain open from 1 - 6 p.m., Tuesday, March 3 through Saturday, March 7 to accommodate those who want to purchase pieces of the collection.
I barely had time to kiss Winnie's hand from across the busy counter, thank her for the decades of dedicated showmanship, and wish the Hanfords all the best. "I can't believe it," she gasped. "I didn't think we could fit this many people in the store."
Passing through the crowd with recorder in hand, I stopped to ask some of the regulars why they came and what the store has meant to them for lo these many years.
Clare Colquitt made the short trip from her home in Kensington to say her goodbyes. "The dominant emotion is overwhelming sadness. It's been far more than a business, not only for Kensington but the San Diego environs as well." A frequenter of Winnie's Picks, when asked if any had let her down, Clare smiled and replied, "Well, I would not say if they had to you right now. They've usually been spot on. If nothing else, I'm glad the family will get a well-deserved retirement."
Oak Park's Mwita Cunningham stood in line holding a stack of DVDs topped by a copy of the terrific documentary, The Corporation. He's been a regular over the past two years and feels it's a "big loss for the community. It seems like everyone far and wide came to the store to rent movies. When I first discovered it, I was impressed by the variety of choices. Now I'm going to have to go all over town to find what they had here at Kensington Video."
Speaking of old timers, Judy Sawyer used to run a beauty salon across the street when KV was once a Hallmark Gift store. "I used to buy office supplies," says Judy with a sheepish smile, "and honestly did not really frequent this when it turned into a video store." Being in a melancholy mood, I let her off easy.
Larry Lloyd bought a store membership in 1998 and has been a regular customer ever since. According to Larry, "It reminds me of when Chuck Swimmer died and they closed the San Diego Auto Collection which housed a lot of antique automobiles. You lose the past. This is the same sort of thing. There's not another video store like this except maybe on the internet."
On my way out, I ran into a familiar face. Neil Kendricks is a local filmmaker, educator, writer, and all-around nice man. I'd have been shocked had he not shown up to bid the store a fond farewell. "This is not just an institution," he recalls. "For years I would drive from Mira Mesa all the way to Kensington to rent videos here. It was not based just on the quality of the movies they rented, it was really the people. I'm a big believer in supporting local businesses and the Hanfords are a joy! It makes a big difference when you walk into a business and someone smiles and knows your name. Those are all plusses and for me it was worth it to make the 30-minute drive versus going to some local outlet — with drones behind the cash register — that's 5 minutes away."
Don't forget to make your reservations for the Hanford's farewell party!