By Melinda Munson
This October, Grizzly’s General & Skagway Radio Shack emptied their three walls of DVD rentals, making room for Costco food products and other popular items.
“It’s the ending of an era,” said co-owner Karla Ray. It took “longer than it should have.” The family first discussed the change eight years ago, then four, then six, then two. Finally, the decision was solidified when the Rays admitted the movies cost more money than they brought in.
“We felt bad. We still had some loyal customers,” Karla said.
Karla and Duff Ray started renting videos in Skagway in 1984. According to Karla, the couple took a “little bit of money” and instead of investing in a rafting business, replaced the alteration corner of their laundromat with VHS rentals. It was a bold move. At the time, those in town who could afford entertainment had a Betamax machine and received the occasional movie rental from Haines, via the fuel company.
The Rays offered up-and-coming VHS machines for $1 more than cost. At a whopping $199, it was still an investment. VHS caught on and Broadway Video grew, moving locations several times until it ultimately landed at Grizzly’s.
“It’s been a fun business and a pleasure,” Karla said.
Co-owner Duff Ray said that sometimes Hollywood stars stopped by and rented movies when they were in town filming. Neil Patrick Harris and Corbin Bernson from “Snowbound: The Jim and Jennifer Stolpa Story” and Holly Hunter and Robin Williams from “The Big White” made appearances and left autographs.
The Duffs donated their 10,000 plus DVDs to Skagway Library. The staff made selections to beef up the library’s collection, which now has an enhanced family section, and is selling the rest.
“It’s so nice and generous of Grizzly’s to do this because we’ve greatly expanded our collection,” said Library Director Rachel Dewan.
The library is currently selling the remaining DVDs and will have another sale this summer when seasonal workers return. Dewan says many seasonals depend on the discs for entertainment as their housing doesn’t have internet.
Cody Burnham remembers going to Broadway Video after burger feeds to rent a VHS and a Super NIntendo cartridge. He watched Broadway Video become Radio Shack and then Grizzly’s General.
“I fondly remember trying to rewind a DVD after watching one from Broadway Video the first time … it did not rewind,” Burnham said. “It is sad that streaming has replaced the excitement of looking at the “New Arrivals” board and rushing to get a copy of a movie before they are all rented, but like always, Grizzly’s has adapted and become what the town needed.”