Editor’s note: The origin of Barb’s Video was incorrect in an earlier version of this story. It has been corrected to note that Barb Jacobs founded the store in 1986 and it has always been called Barb’s Video. Comments from Jacobs also have been added.
After decades of serving Homer independent movie selections, Barb’s Video and DVD is closing its doors this month.
Rentals have been declining over the last few years, and owner Janet Higley has decided to close the business. Barb’s will close its doors on Oct. 31.
The business has a long and rich history in Homer. Founder and namesake Barbara Jacobs started the store in October 1986, she said in a phone interview on Oct. 5 from her winter home in Sun City, Arizona.
Jacobs had worked five years for Millie’s Video and tried to buy it, but they asked too much so she began her own business. Barb’s Video started at an East End Road address and later moved to the Homer’s Gold Mine Gifts building on Lake Street before Jacobs bought a former restaurant and moved it to its current location on Main Street.
“I opened it with 300 movies and then I built it up,” Jacobs said. The store grew to a selection of 10,000 titles, she said.
Jacobs sold Barb’s Video to Janet and Charlie Higley in 2008 and the Higleys kept the name. They’ve been running it for the last decade.
Sue Arseneau, an employee of five years, attributed declining rentals in part to the rise of streaming movies and television via the internet.
“It’s just changed the whole way people see the world and the way they see movies,” she said.
Barb’s was one of the last brick-and-mortar movie rental establishments in the state. Alaska had gained some notoriety for having Blockbuster stores open long after they had shut down in much of the Lower 48. When Kenai’s Blockbuster location closed in 2016, and Soldotna’s closed earlier this year, the Anchorage and Fairbanks stores were all that was left. Both of them also closed this year.
When asked what she remembered best about Barb’s Video, Jacobs said, “The people more than anything else. Everyone was friendly. I never had a problem. Everyone was patient. People were great.”
Jacobs said she first started renting TV series after people asked for the World War II series, “Band of Brothers.” The Monty Python shows also were a big hit.
“Anytime one (video) died, we had to get another one,” she said. “You had to replace them. They were out all the time.”
Jacobs remembered how people would chat with her or the clerks.
“There was always a chair on the far side of the counter when I was there,” she said. “People would sit and talk to me. ‘You kids go find a movie. I’m right here.’”
As an independent movie rental establishment, Arseneau said Barb’s offered its community a wider variety of films, including obscure foreign films and avant-garde cinema that viewers probably wouldn’t have found on their own.
“Those are things that I wouldn’t necessarily look for,” she said.
Arseneau said she remembers the store.
“It’s kind of an icon,” she said.
Arseneau said she knows the Higleys have enjoyed working at Barb’s over the years, as did she.
“I get to see all of town,” she said. “You get to watch people grow up.”
Higley said she and her husband have loved owning the business and are “really sad that we have to close it.”
There will be a merchandise sale, though a date has not been set for it yet.
Arseneau suggested planning out which films a customer wants ahead of time, and bringing their own bags or boxes. She said there are already two local boys who asked whether they could camp out in front of the store the night before in order to make sure they get the Star Wars movies they want.
“It’s going to be like Black Friday in Barb’s,” she said.
In addition to the merchandise, Barb’s will also be selling all its shelving.
The last new releases will come to the store on Oct. 16. Staff are also tracking down customers with late fees. Arseneau asked that any members call and check in about their accounts.
“A lot of them are making good,” she said.
Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org.