For the past 30 years, John’s Video Palace has been renting out “pure entertainment” to the people of Atascadero, offering them a couple of hours of escape from the real world.
“People come in here to take a break from reality, to watch something that couldn’t really happen, and then they have to go back out there,” said owner John Taft.
Taft’s enthusiasm for movies and for his customers are evident as soon as one walks through the front door.
“What movie can I help you find?” Taft asks with a smile. “Name any old move, I’ve got it.”
According to Taft, it’s that enthusiasm and commitment to making the video store experience fun and friendly that kept the business going throughout the years, especially during the heyday of Blockbuster Video (don’t say “the B word” around John!) when the giant corporation was driving mom and pop video stores out of business left and right. When John’s Video Palace first opened in 1988, it had 10 other competitors in town, but the numbers slowly dwindled and many of the small operations that couldn’t compete with the big guys turned to renting pornographic videos, Taft said.
“We’re not carrying that and we’re not supporting that,” Taft said. “People would come in here and say ‘You’re not carrying them? Then we’re supporting you.’”
Most of the store’s customers these days consist of families with young children who can’t afford the cost of movie theater tickets, those who don’t have a good enough internet to stream movies and those who can’t find the movie they’re looking for online. And perhaps, from time to time, a younger couple on a date night looking for a bit of nostalgia.
“Online you only get your choice of a handful of movies,” he said. “We’re almost like a library now, like an old-fashioned thing. We’ve got all the old movies that nobody has anymore. Certain movies may only rent once a year, twice a year so that’s why Neflix and those guys don’t want them. They don’t want to carry them because they don’t make any money. They don’t care — we carry them.”
The store carries more than 6,000 older titles and they rent for $3 for two nights, a price that hasn’t changed in more than 20 years. Taft finally budged and raised the price of new releases from $3.50 to $3.95 recently, but refused to raise the price for library titles because he “likes to keep it old school.”
John’s Video Palace, located at 8120 El Camino Real, is open seven days per week, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call 805-466-5525.