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Toronto Village video rental store looking for new location

High rents driving out independent businesses, owner says

The 724 Movies and More store on Church Street is closing, but the owner says he plans to stay in the Village. Credit: Andrea Houston
The 724 Movies and More store on Church Street is closing, but the owner says he plans to keep his business in the Village.
 
Owner Felix Xiang is looking to find a new location with cheaper rent. He says the video rental business is dying and many other shops have closed, but he hopes to keep his business going as long as he can.
 
“I want to stay as close to Church Street as possible,” he says. “I have some good, loyal customers.”
 
Xiang says he's not yet found a new location, but he has some time until his lease is up. “We have a couple choices that we are considering. There is still five months away for this.”
 
Xiang, who's owned the shop for six years, says the store has been a Village fixture for almost 20 years. He’s concerned he will lose regulars.
 
“That’s why we want to find something as close as possible, in the neighbourhood,” he says, noting the rent is already far too high to stay on the street. He says he currently pays $18,000 per month. “I know it is going to increase,” he says. 
 
Mark Kenny, a Village resident of 30 years, was browsing the store when he heard about its closure. Kenny says it’s not just a video store; it’s part of a past that is disappearing. He wondered if the building is being torn down for condos.
 
Xiang says it’s a possibility, but he doesn’t know for sure. “That’s just a guess,” he says. “The building will have a new owner.”
 
Even if the new owner offered to maintain his current rent, Xiang says, he can’t afford to stay.
 
“Also, the nature of the business is down, so we need to find a cheap place. We want to survive a long time.”
 
Once a staple of every neighbourhood, video rental stores have taken a big hit in recent years. Major chains Rogers and Blockbuster have bailed on the retail business, blaming the rise of Netflix and internet downloads. Some independent stores are surviving, mostly by stocking cult classics and rare titles.
 
Dave Henriques, founder of the Movie Experts resource site for independent video storeowners, told the Toronto Star last month that there are no more than 10 video rental stores left in Toronto. “You could probably count them on two hands,” he said.