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North American Video closing its two stores in Raleigh

Videos sit on shelves at North American Video in West Raleigh in July 2014. The store is closing this summer.
Videos sit on shelves at North American Video in West Raleigh in July 2014. The store is closing this summer. vbridges@newsobserver.com

After years of not taking a salary, the owner of Raleigh’s two remaining traditional video stores said he can no longer afford to keep the 36-year-old company running.

North American Video owner Chip Williams announced Friday that he will close the Cameron Village location on May 31 and will begin selling its inventory to the general public May 1.

The North American Video location in the Plaza West Shopping Center on Western Boulevard will likely close in June or July, he said. The company includes Backstage Video, which is the brand it uses to promote its adult movie selection at its stores.

With the closings, Raleigh loses the last places that embody the American pastime of searching the racks for movies, grabbing some microwave popcorn and wincing at late fees. The 19-year-old Avid Video on Perry Street in Durham will likely be the last free-standing traditional video store in the Triangle. Raleigh’s last Blockbuster store closed in January 2014.

Williams, 59, said the North American Video stores have been covering their expenses and paying off debt, but he hasn’t been taking a salary for about four years and can no longer afford to live without an income.

“I have taken my salary to nothing with the hopes that business would come back,” said Williams, who has two sons in college. “I just have been hanging on too long.”

Williams kept the business open, he said, because he was hesitant to let go of his employees and was hoping that they would take over the company.

At its peak around 2004, North American Video had up to nine locations, a corporate office and more than 50 employees. Now the company employs 10 at its two locations.

“It’s something we knew was coming,” said Michael Rickerby, 35, general manager of the Plaza West location.

Rickerby, who has been working at North American Video for more than 10 years, said he’s known the store’s been on the brink of closing for about five years, but learned it would be definite two weeks ago.

“Just nobody comes through the doors anymore,” he said. “It’s a combination of things. Netflix, Redbox, illegal downloads online, just, over time, killed the brick-and-mortar video industry.”

In 2013, kiosks, such as Redbox, accounted for about 48 percent of video rental spending, while brick-and-mortar and subscription rentals each claimed about 26 percent, according to a 2014 annual report by Entertainment Merchants Association, which represents businesses that sell or rent movies and games in various formats.

Gary Messenger founded North American Video in 1979. William Burton acquired the company in 1995 and sold the Plaza West location to Williams the next year.

Williams bought the name and locations in Cameron Village, Garner and Holly Springs in 1997.

Williams started buying other video stores in the region through the mid 2000s, but revenues started to decline significantly about six years ago.

Williams cut his salary in half and then down to zero about four years ago after he cut employees’ benefits completely and their pay by about 30 percent.

Williams said he listed the business with a commercial broker for about a year before deciding to close. Next steps for Williams, he said, include finding a paying occupation.

“I’m going to get a job,” he said.

Bridges: 919-829-8917;

Twitter: @virginiabridges

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