New Year's Eve 2010 didn't feel like a day of celebration at VisArt Video, the DVD and video rental shop on 7th Street. The store was set to close forever because its owners, Clay Evans and Andrea Kubachko, were getting out of the movie-rental business.
Store manager Gina "Twiggy" Cerniglia and the employees wanted to save VisArt. But at that time, they'd only raised $3,000 after a November fundraiser and other efforts — and that just wasn't enough.
It turns out they weren't alone in their quest. Customer Mickey Aberman didn't want to see VisArt close either, and he was willing to put his money (though he won't say how much) where his heart is. Aberman, a local attorney with the firm of James, McElroy and Diel, has been a customer of VisArt for years; he says that he was drawn in by the store's eclectic selection of movies and its knowledgeable staff.
According to Cerniglia, when she told Aberman that the store was going to close, he called Kubachko and asked her how he could stop the sale. After a brief discussion, the store was saved. Cerniglia said the liquidation sale was called off, the customers were ushered out of the store and the doors were locked — just not for good.
So why did Aberman decide to put his money in the video store? "Well, I felt like Charlotte has been losing a lot of the sorts of places that are different or special, and I just hated to lose that one," he said. "When I went in on the 31st and they were selling off the inventory, I was kind of sad. I got to talking to them and I found out her deal had fallen through."
Aberman said while some people like to go to the mall and browse the stores, he likes to check out the titles at VisArt. There are more than 30,000 different movies in stock there, and since the sale was finalized on Jan. 15, 2011, Cerniglia, now an owner along with Aberman, said they've added 1,000 new movies.
"You have movies that range from new releases, [which] they get two weeks before Red Box," Aberman said, "to Charlie Chaplin movies, Buster Keaton movies and Katharine Hepburn movies ... there's something for everybody. It's a good cultural education."
When customers who'd bought movies during the pre-empted liquidation sale found out that their favorite video store was sticking around, something special happened: Many returned what they bought so that the store would have something to rent as it re-opened.
And now that VisArt is independently owned, Cerniglia said the store is able to cater to the customer a little more when it comes to ordering.
"We just recently got Dancing Outlaw [about eccentric West Virginia resident Jesco White] and that was one that we'd been begging and begging for. We literally tried to order that movie for five years and we just got it," she said with a laugh.
The Film Issue: