I'm not yet ready to say goodbye to ma-and-pa video stores. Long ago, I worked at Westside Video and, when they went out of business, I started working for a chain rental store and silently mourned the loss of the weird and wacky local places of my youth. These were the sort of places where you could find not just movies, but illuminating conversations with clerks and owners about obscure '70s foreign horror films while they made you a sandwich or some frozen yogurt.
When I went to Video Village today, I found a place with some awesome eccentricities and a great collection of movies in a store where I wanted to spend my money. Oh, and I wanted some fried chicken. As I left Video Village with some boneless hot wings and an armful of movies, I realized I could definitely get used to this.
Tommy Phelps, the owner of Village Video, has operated video stores all across the country before settling here in Bend. Phelps is a fun guy to shoot the breeze with and when we started to get into his past and present as a Nevada gold miner, I realized I could spend hours (and did) just listening to this man talk. He's seen just about every movie in the store and has a knowledgeable opinion on the ones I asked him about.
There are around 10,000 titles in the store and I was able to find almost everything I was looking for. But Video Village has all of their old releases packed together so tightly, that they're able to have thousands of old titles that a chain wouldn't bother stocking anymore. For some, that might be their biggest drawback. To people who just want to get in and out, walking into Video Village and seeing thousands of DVDs and Blu-Rays grouped together by genre, un-alphabetized, it might be a little daunting. Phelps has said that he's lost customers because of it, but just can't understand why someone wouldn't just ask him where to find what they're looking for, and if they're not looking for anything in particular, then why would it need to be alphabetized?
You're probably really here to find out whether the fried chicken was any good and I have to give a sleepy and satisfied yes. It was 10 times less greasy than the kind you're used to getting at a grocery store deli, and had a lovely smoky flavor held over from the mouth-wateringly flavorful skin. The breast meat was tender and plentiful and I didn't hate myself when it was all gone. Plus, the boneless wings were the right amount of spiciness without ever making my eyes water or giving me the hiccups. I ate an eightpiece bucket in 20 minutes while watching the remake of Fright Night I rented and enjoyed every minute of it.
Video Village is an eccentrically wonderful addition to Bend, but it is still struggling to find its footing as it gets the last of its kinks worked out. The store has boxes still stuffed in corners and some clutter to be put in order, but to me, that just adds to the charm of the place. Awareness about the place is still low, as Tommy still gets calls weekly from people thinking it's a porn shop. Video Village deserves to catch on, not just because it's the last of a dying breed of independent video stores, but because, if you think about it, fried chicken and videos are an excellent match.
1255 NE 3rd St. Bend. 541-389-4222. Sunday-Thursday 1pm-Close, Friday and Saturday 1pm-10pm.