Petaluma says goodbye to Silver Screen Video

Petaluma is saying goodbye to a beloved family-owned business, its last video store.  

Silver Screen Video, which at its peak had eight locations, will close its doors Sunday. 

"This is my all time favorite movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," said store owner Rick LaFranchi, popping the DVD into a player. 

His store on N. Petaluma Blvd opened 31 years ago. 

Now it is plastered with closing signs, including a message on the door thanking shoppers but explaining "the world has changed." 

"There are so many different options out there right now, I'm actually surprised we were able to last here as long as we have ," said LaFranchi.

He credits his staff, a core group of three employees who have a collective 45 years working at Silver Screen. 

He says they've been knowledgeable and responsive to customers, providing the personal touch that kept people coming back.  

"It's really hard to say goodbye to this, because this is like home, our second home, " said store manager Rigoberto Jaime, who started working behind the counter as a teenager 19 years ago. "A lot of people are coming in to say goodbye and we all remember going to the video store, even when it was VHS back in the day, it was fun, it was family time."

Now families are emerging from Silver Screen with bags of bargain videos 

Titles are selling as low as 20 for $20 or 10 for $20.  

"This is the best place to find movies you can't find anywhere else," said mom Mariah Curley, picking titles for her two-year old son Hunter. "Most things you find streaming, are newer, rather than things that are from 20 years ago." 

From an inventory of about 50,000 discs, the store has sold about half its stock, and the merchandise is still carefully sorted and categorized. 

"It's very sad to see it go, it's just been such a great part of the community," said Linda O'Brien, holding some selected movies. "I've got some comedy and other fun stuff, and I could stream them but sometimes it's nice to have the option to just pop them in whenever you want, and not worry about that."   

The mood at Silver Screen is a bit sad, but very proud.

LaFranchi's family has been dairy ranchers in West Marin for a century.

He and his brother branched into the video store business with their first store in San Anselmo in 1986, and seven more stores followed, in Marin and Sonoma Counties, plus Oakland and El Cerrito.

They adapted with the times, from VHS to DVD, and then video games, and managed to stay competitive even against large chains like Blockbuster.

"But once we ran into the Netflix, no late fee, business model, it was very tough for us to stand up to that," said LaFranchi. 

As as the curtain drops, he says he feels humble and grateful for to have been part of that vanished social hub: the video store.

"People would really congregate on Friday nights to look for a movie or movies for the weekend, they would stay longer and visit with each other," reminisced LaFranchi. "It definitely is the end of an era, and one we're so fortunate to have been a part of all these years."

Silver Screen store hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. during its closing sale.