MARBLEHEAD — Before pulling the plug on the last video rental store on the North Shore, Chet Strout wants to press rewind.
Strout opened Chet’s Video and Candy Shoppe with his wife, Carrie Thomas, 25 years ago with a passion for movies and nine credit cards. At one time, Chet’s was one of four video stores in the small town. While the others came and went, Chet’s maintained its mom and pop feel, and built long-lasting relationships with customers. But the last video store on the North Shore will close at the end of the month.
“This place has been in our lives since we moved here,” said resident Francie King. “It’s a one of a kind place where you can come in and talk about movies whenever you want. We’re all buying the movies we love because we will never be able to rent them again.”
Without so much as asking for a last name, Strout’s daughter, Melissa Flanagan, who grew up working at the shop, pulled up a list of movies King had placed on hold and made the exchange.
“We’ve never gone by an account number,” said Strout. “You might have one, but we’re like Cheers. When you come in, everybody knows your name.”
Strout said his favorite part of the past two dozen years has been getting to know the customers. He has watched children, who were prohibited from crossing any streets on their own, find a way to make it to Chet’s after school without straying from the sidewalk, and seen his first high-school-aged employee bring in his own children for a film.
A collection of VHS tapes sit in the children’s section for the many grandparents who still use a VCR, but the walls of the shop are lined with DVDs and Blu Ray videos in every genre.
Thomas and Strout said they watched the industry change over time, and while many local customers still make time to stop by to pick up their favorite films, many turned to streaming services.
Even through the changes, some things have stayed the same. Star Wars movies have stood the test of time and have remained a popular choice throughout most of the store’s tenure. When the first film was released, Strout said he purchased about 25 copies.
His favorite movies in the shop include Chinatown, Young Frankenstein, and Edward Scissorhands.
While the movies will be no longer, the candy portion of the business is moving to Marblehead’s Orange Leaf frozen yogurt shop, where Strout will work part time.
The Atlantic Avenue shop has built a case to display the penny candy, and will also take on Chet’s personalized old fashioned sodas and offer the same popcorn from the machine purchased by the movie lover when the store first opened.
“It’s bittersweet but we feel good,” said Strout. “We had a great run and we’ve had a lot of fun.”
From March 25 through March 30, there will be a blowout sale to try to sell as many of the shops 15,000 videos as possible. Commemorative t-shirts that reflect the stores iconic wooden sign are being sold in adult and children sizes, ranging from $20 to $25. A farewell party is planned for March 31.