A sign outside the Soldotna Blockbuster advertises a close-out sale. The video rental store will shutter its doors this week after more than two decades in operation. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

A sign outside the Soldotna Blockbuster advertises a close-out sale. The video rental store will shutter its doors this week after more than two decades in operation. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna Blockbuster to shut down after 24 years

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Justin Trickel’s name.

Tourists from the Lower 48 who come to Soldotna to fish or hike sometimes find themselves surprised by a less-expected feature of the local landscape — Soldotna’s Blockbuster Video, one of the Alaskan remnants of the once-ubiquitous rental chain that survived its parent company’s 2010 bankruptcy and competition from rental kiosks and online streaming to become among the last in the U.S. The Soldotna Blockbuster’s Facebook page is full of tourist selfies taken in front of its blue and yellow sign or in its aisles of DVDs, accompanied by nostalgic exclamations.

“Every year we were getting tourists pulling into the parking lot, being surprised we’re here,” said Soldotna Blockbuster manager Justin Trickel. “Taking pictures outside, coming in and taking pictures, and saying ‘I haven’t been in a Blockbuster in years!’ And we’d say, ‘Yeah, we’re still here.’”

Open since 1994, the Soldotna Blockbuster had its last day of movie rentals Sunday. At noon on Tuesday it will open its doors again to sell off its DVDs and merchandise — up to and including the shelves.

Though slow internet connections in many local homes made Blockbuster a viable alternative to streaming, and it could compete with rental kiosks by getting in-demand movies faster, Kevin Daymude, general manager of all Alaskan Blockbuster locations, said the general economic downturn of the last few years has been harder to beat.

“The big thing is the economy has changed so much,” Daymude said. “Technology is obviously a huge thing, people can do more streaming and all of that, but in a lot of outlying places you can’t get that data — it costs you an arm and a leg. But the people coming in just don’t have the money they used to to spend on entertainment … People are still renting, but they’re just not renting as much.”

When Kenai’s Blockbuster shut its doors in March 2016, there were nine locations in Alaska. Now the only ones that remain are in Fairbanks and Anchorage. Daymude said the only Lower 48 locations he knows of are in Oregon, which he said had three Blockbusters until two closed in March.

After Blockbuster’s 2010 bankruptcy, the stores that stayed open were those managed by franchises that licensed the name — in Alaska’s case, the Canadian company Border Entertainment. Daymude said Alaskan Blockbusters survived not just because of different local market conditions, but also because their franchise owners were able to make different business decisions — particularly, Daymude said, opting out of the company’s 2004 decision to stop charging late fees.

“We weren’t committed to the doing same things, promotion-wise, that Blockbuster did themselves,” Daymude said.

Of the Soldotna Blockbuster’s six employees, three had previously worked at the Kenai location, including Trickel, who’s been with the company for 10 years. Trickel said many of the store’s customers were regulars who got to know the staff. They were reacting to its closure with mixed feelings.

“They’re glad we’re going to be selling everything, but they’re sad we’re having to sell everything,” he said.

Reach Ben Boettger at bboettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

Blockbuster Supervisor Jessica Lester puts DVDs back on the shelf at the Soldotna video rental store on Monday. The business is shutting its doors after more than two decades in business. The store is hosting a close-out sale on Tuesday, May 15. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

Blockbuster Supervisor Jessica Lester puts DVDs back on the shelf at the Soldotna video rental store on Monday. The business is shutting its doors after more than two decades in business. The store is hosting a close-out sale on Tuesday, May 15. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

More in News

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Anchor Point house fire leaves 1 dead, 1 in serious condition

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

EPA logo
Alaska Native group to receive EPA funds for clean water projects

The agency is handing out $4.3 million to participating tribal organizations nationwide.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State reports 6 new COVID deaths

The deaths, which included a Kenai woman in her 40s, pushed the total to 840 since the pandemic began.

Ryanna Thurman (right) speaks to a library employee at the Soldotna Public Library on Thursday, March 25 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna library seeks OK for grant fund purchases

The funds are made available under the federal American Rescue Plan Act

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Kenai man killed in vehicle rollover

The man was travelling northbound on the Sterling Highway on Tuesday.

Cheryl Morse and Tom Kleeman prepare Thanksgiving lunch at the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Food bank opens doors for Thanksgiving lunch

“We don’t know what to expect, so we’re trying to still be cautious on our limited seating.”

Carter Kyle (left), Lincoln Kyle (center) and Brandon Kyle (right) hand off Thanksgiving meals at a drive through event hosted by the Salvation Army on Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Thanksgiving on the go

Salvation Army hands out meals in drive-thru event

Bench creator, Brad Hughes, pours the molding material over the clay while Rob Wiard and Matt brush the liquid rubber over each character on the bench to ensure it is covered evenly. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Molds for the Loved Lost Bench are underway

Construction for the memorial bench continues as the rubber molds to shape the concrete are made.

Most Read