An independent video store in Nelson that bucks a trend

Reo’s video store has been a cornerstone of the Nelson area’s entertainment scene for many years. The new owners plan to keep it that way. - Kirsten Hildebrand photo
Reo’s video store has been a cornerstone of the Nelson area’s entertainment scene for many years. The new owners plan to keep it that way.
— image credit: Kirsten Hildebrand photo

Watching movies was something that new Reo’s video store owners Park and Mary Cowin have always loved to do — even when it meant firing up their generator at their off-the-grid home.

The couple lived rurally above Glade where they farmed and raised their children with power from a gas propane generator.

“We’d fire that on at 4 o’clock in the winter and put a Reo’s video on,” said Park. “Being a farmer you’re not working as much and in between skiing, what do you want to do? Watch a movie.”

That was back in the day when the store’s namesake Reo Rocheleau owned the store. Park talks of the special deal made at the Nelson video store where the family was given a stack of shows for an extended rental — customer service was always something special about Reo’s, he says.

“We plan to continue with the excellent customer service that this store provides,” he says. “We realize to have a store like this, of which there’s a dwindling number, you have to provide more than just a movie and that is the service.”

In December, Park and Mary took over Reo’s from Paul and Megan Osak, owners since 2001. The Cowins moved into Nelson a few years ago and as they approach retirement age, it was time to decide, “do we retire or do we keep on going,” he says.

“Being 65 doesn’t really mean anything. I am going to blow by that without any problem,” says Park, considering himself vital and healthy. “It’s no reason to stop doing what I am interested in — which is working.”

Deciding they were not ready for a life of leisure, Reo’s was, “the right fit for us,” says Park.

Owning a video store isn’t the right fit for many these days with the rise of online downloading and the fall of big chains like Blockbuster, Movie Gallery and Rogers, says Park.

“Obviously we had to factor that in, but this business is really well supported by the community. It’s a healthy business. Over the next few years there is plenty of financial room to manage… We think Reo’s is here to stay. The fact that the big guys are gone is actually good because now we can specialize. And offer the customer something that they will not find on Netflix.”

Paul Osak agrees. As he leaves the store, a second home for over 12 years, he is most proud of Reo’s position as a relevant and integral piece of the fabric of the broader Nelson community.

“Reo’s was and still is a busy destination retail location. Even in 2012, we performed over 75,000 transactions and rented out in excess of 150,000 movies. So, even in this age of free (illegal) downloading and multiple distribution mediums, Reo’s is still a vibrant and busy movie rental store,” he says.

He purchased Reo’s from Rocheleau shortly after arriving in Nelson. It seemed like destiny, says Osak, who studied film in university and was introduced to it at a very young age.

“I remember going to Chaplin films, musicals, watching the Sunday afternoon war films and dusters with my dad, so I was exposed to all genres of film very early from on,” he says.

At 52, Osak is ready to pursue new passions — something which really speaks to who he is.

He believes the store is in good hands.

“For Reo’s to continue to move forward, it needs an injection of new energy as we enter the twilight stage of the video store. Park and Mary are very excited about this opportunity and I think with their energy and new ideas, they will accomplish great things and carry on the legacy left behind by both Reo and me,” he says.

Mary, also an artist, is the film buff filling Osak’s shoes. An expert in older movies even as far back as the 20s, 30s and 40s, she also has extensive knowledge in dramas from the 60s through 80s, says Park of his slightly more modest wife.

“She’s amazing,” describes Park. “She’ll take people into those stacks and find them what they want. She’s a real strong point in the business because she knows movies.”

Park and Mary have extensive business experience as well. Producing veggies on their Glade farm, they added value to their products by selling herbs and pastes distributed to restaurants and stores province-wide. The were also involved with the Kootenay Co-op with Park serving on the board as the store decided it was time to go organic with their produce.

“At my age now, we were looking for something that wasn’t so labourious,” he says. “This is totally different than the food business, but still you’re running a crew, purchasing and selling, organizing and providing customer service. The standards are the same.”

The Cowins are keen to build upon the extensive library at the store, bringing in more European films and filling the library with other movies Mary’s fond of. And she thinks Nelson is the type of audience that appreciates this.

“Seeing how video stores are closing down everywhere. We’ve got a good following and that’s to do with our service for sure and our selection of movies. We’re excited about it and we want to expand on this,” she says.

One way Reo’s has adapted was the building of the private theatre upstairs. Osak reports the theatre getting busier every month and in November, it was rented 16 times. Mary says they want to expand on this as well, another way to make it as the movie market changes.

Reo’s is located at 607 Front Street. For more information on rentals or booking the theatre space call 250-352-7422.


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