Circle Video, a Madison Street mainstay since 1981, has announced plans to close its doors as of March 19.
The store, which started out with 80 movies, one employee and an unpaid volunteer, now has a library of over 25,000 titles at 7320 Madison St., its home since 1986. Circle Video opened a second location in Chicago in 1990, but closed it in 1998. Circle Pizza, which was intended to offer pizza to be delivered along with movies, closed after the loss of manager Kevin True, who died in 2000.
The building that houses Circle Video was sold to developer Robert Marani in 2005, and soon underwent a massive renovation. When his one-year lease expired, Circle Video owner Patrick Cerceo had to either buy the property, find a new location, or close for good.
He said that escalating real estate prices, both in Forest Park and elsewhere, left him no choice but to go out of business. “I think that you’re going to see a lot of businesses having a hard time making it. It’s getting to the point that you’re going to have to sell products for unreasonable amounts (to compete with larger chains),” he said.
Cerceo said that the cost to buy the current property would have been about $500,000. Other locations he has looked at in the area were too expensive, he said. With property taxes added to the equation, he said, it seems unlikely that he will find an affordable new location for the store.
“Our plan right now is we’re going to literally open (an online video rental service) out of a basement. We’ll keep in contact through an e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to continue doing what we were doing,” said Cerceo.
Other reasons cited for the closing include increased competition from chains as well as Internet video rental services such as Netflix and Movies on Demand. Cerceo said that profits were also affected when the Forest Park Public Library began renting movies.
“Video stores across the country have experienced a 20 percent decline in income over the past several years. Our income has done the same thing and worse,” wrote Cerceo in a press release announcing the closing.
Art Jones of the Forest Park MainStreet Association said he felt this, rather than unaffordable real estate costs, was most likely to blame for Circle Video’s closing.
“Circle Video and their owner have down a marvelous job of standing up to the Blockbusters and Hollywood Videos of the world, but that’s really an uphill battle,” he said.
Jones said he does not think that Forest Parkers should be worried about other independent businesses finding themselves unable to stay on Madison Street.
“Has the cost increased? It has. Is that necessarily going to be a disincentive? I think not. People are investing because they see the value of being neighbors of the dynamic, useful and energetic businesses and business owners that have come (to the street),” said Jones.
Other reasons named for the closing include the effects of parking difficulties on Madison Street, customers lost while the building was being remodeled, and a 7 percent “amusement tax” added in recent years by the village.
“The problem with it was that it cut us off from raising prices….They raised our rates for us and took that money,” said Cerceo.
The store will sell its VHS collection for $1 each until it closes, and will give whatever remains to local schools and libraries on March 20. Cerceo will retain the stores DVD collection for the future “Virtual Circle Video.”
Still, he knows that no online store can duplicate the service Circle’s customers received.
“(Customers) had people here they could talk to, people who were knowledgeable…I don’t know what we’re going to be able to do to duplicate that,” he said.
“We thank you, our loyal customers for all that you have endured to continue with us,” wrote Cerceo in his announcement. “Words can not really say what we feel for you, for your support, and for you sharing the vision and dream that we once had.”