After 35 years in Austin, Vulcan Video says goodbye

A photo of a man in a red shirt and black hat standing in a video rental store
Vulcan Video General Manager Jacob Knight stands in the aisles at his store, which has announced it will close. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

Vulcan Video General Manager Jacob Knight stands in the aisles at his store, which has announced it will close. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)

Image description
Vulcan Video's last location, on Russel; Street in South Austin, will close. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
After fighting through decades of rising rent and industry shifts, local video rental institution Vulcan Video has announced its closure.

"High rent, online video, and then coronavirus. Sounds like a movie villainess. Kind of is," a store representative wrote on Vulcan Video's Facebook page April 7 in a post announcing the closure. "We simply cannot support extending our business into an uncertain future, even of several months."

Vulcan Video initially announced they would temporarily close March 25 per the city of Austin's order to close nonessential businesses to curb the spread of COVID-19.

"Stay safe! We'll see y'all soon!" the store wrote in a social media post.

However, posts from staff members mourning the permanent loss of the store began rolling out within a few days.

The coronavirus's effects on Vulcan's business came at a time when the store was already working double-time to keep the store afloat.

In summer 2019, General Manager Jacob Knight and Operations Manager Matt Taylor started a GoFundMe campaign to help the business stay open through its current lease as rent put financial pressure on the store. The campaign prompted a wave of support from Austin's film community, raising nearly $33,000.

According to Knight, Vulcan Video represented one the last remaining bastions of the Austin community of film lovers. In a June 2019 interview with Community Impact Newspaper, Knight said the store offered an experience that streaming sites like Netflix, which had put a dent in Vulcan Video's business, could not.

“It’s a place where people can come together and find their own strange family members,” he said. “You can’t talk to the algorithm. You can talk to the guy behind the counter.”

For a time, Vulcan managed to weather the rise of streaming sites, like it had survived the rise of major video rental chains like Blockbuster. As both Austin and the video industry changed, the store persisted through several locations—on 29th Street, Elizabeth Street and finally, on Russell Drive off Ben White Boulvard in South Austin.

"Thanks to you, all our dear customers who literally made it possible," the store said in its closing announcement.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


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