Estacadas last video store was one of four when it opened in 1985

Once upon a time, there were four video stores in Estacada. Stores owned by the Blockbuster and Hollywood video chains could be found in small towns from one end of the country to another.

A lot has changed since then, though.

Hollywood and Blockbuster have largely been replaced by newer entities, such as Netflix, OnDemand and Red Box. Now, there is only one video store in Estacada.

And Just In Video owner Justin Venetucci said he plans to stick around for a while longer.

Just In Video first opened its doors in 1985. Back then, Venetucci owned stores in Milwaukie, Portland, Sandy and Gresham.

“I was the new guy on the street,” Venetucci said. “I was seen as an outsider.”

Venetucci started off with a business plan that has remained largely unchanged throughout the years. That's been the secret to the store’s longevity.

“We stuck to our guns,” he said.

The store began drawing customers away from its competitors by charging reasonable rates for rentals, an approach that Venetucci said was uncommon in those days.

“Before, they were being gouged pretty good,” Venetucci said.

Other stores dropped their rates in response to the new competition. Just In also avoided some of the trends within the movie rental industry. Many stores offered five-night rentals for new releases and lost money in the process.

“That was a stupid idea,” Venetucci said.

Some key decisions fairly early on contributed to Just In’s success. Venetucci opted for VHS over Beta, and similarly passed up the chance to stock his shelves with Laserdiscs.

More recently, he’s stayed with traditional DVDs instead of Blue Ray, a technology that he feels will soon be obsolete.

“It’s silly to invest in Blue Ray,” he said.

All of the major movie studios are hoping to phase out DVDs and Blue Ray within the next five years and replace them with digital signals that users can rent instead. Such a system is much cheaper for the studios.

That switchover is already well under way, with many cable services offering OnDemand.

Technology has shrunk the size of a video rental business considerably, with the advent of Red Box. Entire retail store locations are being reduced down to much smaller units.

“They rent 15 square feet, and we have 5,000,” Venetucci said. “That’s a big difference in operating expenses.”

But Venetucci said there are downsides to Red Box, including a lack of quality control. If something goes wrong, there’s nobody to complain to.

The personal touch has been a key component of Just In’s ability to stay in business. Venetucci instructs his employees to treat customers like their grandmothers. Many of the parents who patronize the store were babies when he first started.

“We have a lot of loyal people,” Bentucci said.

Just In’s motto is “real people, real service, real value.”

“As compared to a machine, where you don’t have any of that,” Venetucci said.

The stores in Gresham and Estacada are the only ones that Venetucci still operates, and they have three employees each.

By the time the anticipated digital switchover is complete, Venetucci will be the right age for retirement. He said he will likely keep the stores open, as there are still a lot of movie collectors out there. Any number of titles came out on VHS that never made it to DVD, so he expects that a market will continue to exist for buying, selling and trading movies.

As it is, older titles comprise quite a bit of Just In’s business. The industry had been so focused on new releases that such a niche has been created organically.

“In the meantime, we’re doing good,” Venetucci said. “The recession hasn’t really hurt us much.”

Video rentals are still a good way for families to relax and enjoy experiences together without breaking the bank.

“We’re cheap entertainment,” Venetucci said. “It’s something people can still afford to do, and it’s good for us too.”

Venetucci never imagined when he opened Just In Video in Estacada that he would be the last man standing almost 30 years later.

“I was not determined, it just worked out that way,” he said.