Follow-up File: Crossroads Video store embraces the ‘unusual’

Jim and Diane Tomkins opened Crossroads Video in San Luis Obispo in 2005.
Jim and Diane Tomkins opened Crossroads Video in San Luis Obispo in 2005.

Name: Diane Tomkins

Job: Owner

Business: Crossroads Video

What they said then: In March 2011, The Tribune took a closer look at local video stores who’d seen major changes in their industry. Diane and Jim Tomkins opened Crossroads Video in San Luis Obispo in 2005.

“I love foreign movies and things that are strange,” Diane Tomkins said. Her Broad Street shop offers new releases and hard-to-find videos in every genre and format, including VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray.

A few years ago, Crossroads and other independently owned rental stores watched chains such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video shutter their outlets in San Luis Obispo County and elsewhere.

Their main competitors became mail-order and on-demand services such as Netflix and rental kiosks such as Redbox.

What she says now: It’s still a tough business, but Crossroads continues to draw loyal customers among local residents.

Diversification — not only in movie titles but in services offered — seems to be a key.

“We’re not making great amounts of money,” Tomkins said. But “it’s not as bad as you would think. We’re kind of an unusual store now.”

With more than 15,000 titles in its 1,600-square-foot shop, Crossroads carries everything from anime to classics and documentaries. Its deal of five movies for five days at $5 continues to be a favorite for older videos.

But new releases still bring in customers. Crossroads receives new titles a week before they hit shelves so movies will be available to rent the day they are released. Early delivery also gives its seven part-time employees a chance to watch them.

“That’s extremely important,” Tomkins said. Loyal customers comment on the value of employee recommendations. “They know what the customer would like.”

At $3, new movies must be returned the next day to meet demand.

Crossroads carries up to a dozen copies the first few weeks, then sells used videos when they aren’t so hot. It also sells movie posters for another source of revenue.

Video polishing reduces customer complaints and returns. It’s also a service the shop offers for customers’ personal collections.

For those looking to preserve family recordings, Crossroads makes video copies. The exact cost depends on the total length and whether the store provides blank DVDs, but it runs roughly $5 to $7 an hour.

That makes up about 10 percent of Crossroads’ sales, Tomkins said.

“Some of them are so old that they were copied from 8-millimeter to VHS and now they want to copy them to DVD,” she added. “Sometimes I get boxes of tapes. That can add up.”

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