The long-running downtown video store will now be closed Wednesdays, and keep shorter hours the rest of the week.
Four Star Video Heaven, the deeply sourced video store that’s been operating in downtown Madison since 1985, announced on Friday that it would be scaling back its hours as of April 20, operating from noon to 8 p.m. Thursdays through Tuesdays and closing on Wednesdays. Customers can expect more announcements about the store’s future in May, says co-owner Lewis Peterson, though owners declined to talk on the record this past weekend about what’s next for Four Star.
“We’re just not as busy as we have been in the past, and all of us either have or are looking for second jobs,” Peterson says. “It’s something that is probably a little overdue, but we’re always a little hesitant to change things around here, because I think at least some of our appeal is being a little bit of an anachronism and maintaining how we’ve been operating for decades.”
Peterson and three other employees—Andy Fox, Helen Boldt, and Nick Propheter—took over the store in 2014 from previous owner Lisa Brennan, crowdfunding a down payment on the business and incorporating it as a worker-owned cooperative. Looking back on that time in. 2015 LakeFrontRow interview, Peterson said that “The possibility of closing was very real” before the successful change in ownership.
The fact that Four Star has held on for the past five years is impressive. Streaming giants Netflix and Amazon have, for most people, basically vaporized the habit of going to a store and renting a DVD. On top of that, services like Shudder, Fandor, and the newly launched Criterion Channel make the streaming model more appealing to the niche film audiences that Four Star serves so well.
Rent in downtown Madison isn’t getting any cheaper, and Four Star has increasingly stood out in an ever more bland and gentrifying State Street area. While it has tried to adapt to the times with offerings like a monthly all-you-can-rent subscription model, part of its charm is that it feels of a piece with Madison’s past; Four Star alums include The Stranger‘s Dan Savage and film critics Keith Phipps and Nathan Rabin, and Roger Ebert was a fan. The store is still very much a place for cinephiles and eccentrics, boasting a collection of 25,000 titles and occasionally posting corny pop-culture jokes on Twitter.
We’ll follow up as we learn more about the Four Star staff’s plans for the future.