Jet Video, an institution in Portland’s Deering Center, is selling its stock before closing after 25 years in business.

The last family video rental store in Portland is closing its doors at the end of August.

Jet Video on Stevens Avenue in Deering Center, which also sells ice cream and snacks and serves as a post office, made the announcement on Facebook this month. Customers and neighbors lamented the loss of a local institution that goes back at least 25 years under different names and owners, but the current owners have decided their store can no longer compete against Netflix and Hulu.

“We cherish these past five and half years of having been in this business as a unique opportunity for the celebration of the arts and community,” Jet Video’s owners said in the Facebook post.

Video rental stores were ubiquitous in Maine and nationwide two decades ago, but only a handful remain in Maine as Redbox rental kiosks and web-based movie sharing sites have taken over the home entertainment market. The Star Struck Movie Cafe is still active in Old Orchard Beach, offering pastries, ice cream and drinks alongside DVD rentals. The Opera Movie House in Belfast also is operating, among only a few others throughout the state.

Jet Video, which previously operated under other names such as Video Jam and Big Star Video, is following the same path as many other chains and independent video rental stores. Another of Portland’s last independent stores, Videoport, closed in July 2015 after 28 years in business. In Brunswick, Bart & Greg’s DVD Explosion closed in December.

The same trend has happened nationwide as spending on video rentals in the United States dropped from $8.6 billion in 2001 to $3.3 billion in 2015, according to data from the Entertainment Merchants Association. More recent data was not available. During the same period, online streaming has grown rapidly, and nearly half of all U.S. households now subscribe to at least one streaming service such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu, the association said.

Blockbuster, once a vast national chain of video stores, will have one store left – in Bend, Oregon – after two Alaska stores finish selling off their inventories in the coming weeks.

Jet’s owners have posted details about the closing on Facebook and responded to some of the 200 comments posted in response to the announcement, but are not identified in the posts and have declined interview requests made in person and by phone and email.

Jet Video will remain open during its normal business hours, but with limited services, until the tentative closing date of Aug. 26, the post said. Video rentals ceased July 5, and they are currently selling what they have in stock, including used DVDs, blu-rays, TV seasons and video games.

Jet Video also was a neighborhood hub and hangout with an ice cream, smoothies, sodas and a snack bar, as well as a contract post office station. It plans to continue offering ice cream, sodas and packaged snacks until the end of August. The postal station will close July 31, the owner’s post said.

“We know how valued that postal station is to the community, and we kept it in the store for as long as we could because of that,” the owners said in a Facebook comment on their page. However, they said, that the postal station wasn’t profitable. “Selling postage on commission was definitely not a winning scenario for us in the end,” they said.

Greg Goodwin, 41, owns The Dog Wash Etc., located a few blocks from Jet Video and has rented movies from the store for six years. He said he will miss the unique neighborhood business and its friendly staff.

“Netflix can’t compete with stores like Jet Video, where you get more than just DVD rentals,” Goodwin said, noting that Jet Video was able to get newly released movies before they become available on Netflix.

Sarah and Brian Despres pose for a wedding photo outside Jet Video last September. They met in Portland and their first apartment together was just doors down from the store. “It felt very nostalgic to me and brought me back to when I was younger and our family would run into Blockbuster to find a VHS to rent,” she said.

Sarah and Brian Despres, both 29 and neighbors of the store, have a personal connection to the business and are saddened by its closing. Sarah Despres recalled an afternoon date in Deering Center before they were married, complete with ice cream and a movie from Jet Video.

“I knew things were going well when he asked me if I wanted to share a Jet Video card together,” she said.

When the couple ended up getting married a few years later, they took wedding photos around their favorite shops in the neighborhood, including Jet Video.

“Jet Video is an iconic part of that neighborhood,” Sarah said in an email. “I’ll miss walking in and spending too much time looking at all the videos to rent. It’s also one of the only video stores around! It felt very nostalgic to me and brought me back to when I was younger and our family would run into Blockbuster to find a VHS to rent.”

Goodwin wishes the owners would try to sell the store and others expressed similar thoughts on Jet Video’s Facebook page. The owners replied that they would consider offers for the store, but believe it is unlikely to happen.

“From the day we took over the reins, we wanted Jet to outlive our personal involvement in it if it were at all possible,” they said. “We’re pretty confident that we’ll have gotten just about every last minute of value out of running the store by August 2018, but if someone were willing to take the risk of keeping it going, we’d certainly hear them out.”

The closure announcement also came with a request that customers come in to settle their late fee balances. Those unpaid late fees total $10,000, according to their post.

“Please show your appreciation of our many years of dedicated service by helping our closing to go smoothly by coming in and settling up what you owe,” the post said.

Julie Pike can be contacted at 400-6986 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: juliepike999

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