There is no shortage of places in Austin to make you feel artistic, inspired or even a little “weird,” but when is the last time you felt a sense of nostalgia? Tucked away just off of South Congress on W. Elizabeth Street is Vulcan Video — a store that is arguably the next best thing to time travel.
By Alexa Babin
The store’s West Campus location closed last month, but on Jan. 27, Vulcan Video opened a new store location at 100 #A North Loop Blvd. With two locations, Vulcan is prepared to continue serving the movie needs of the fine folks of Austin.
Upon walking through the door, customers enter a room stacked and shelved with remnants of years past and age-old works of art waiting to be viewed. Classics, horrors, thrillers, adventures, romances, comedies, foreign films and just about any other genre of interest stock the shelves of the family owned video store that has been around since the mid-80s. Kristen Ellisor, general manager of the SoCo Vulcan Video location, says the store functions like a library. "We provide access to an art form that’s pretty damn cheap … if it came out, we have it," she adds.
Ellisor’s interest in movies is no new development. At age 13, she rented her first movie. “We lived out in the suburbs and [my parents] would drive us into town,” she says. She says the wonder and discussion as to where to find a particular movie for the day ended as quickly as it began when young Ellisor realized time and time again, “Oh, well Vulcan has it.”
According to Ellisor, not only are the movie options at Vulcan Video vast and pleasantly surprising, but skimming the edges of movie cases is nostalgic. She also argues heading to her store for a rental is better than watching movies via Netflix or RedBox. There’s “no chance of stumbling upon something you’ve never heard about” unless you pay a visit to a video store, which these days can be a difficult task. Yet Max Pozderac, one of the store's employees, says Vulcan does not only exist, it thrives. “We’re still around and going strong in a post-Blockbuster world. Video stores are in the fight for you to create what you want to watch on your own time," he says.
Although streaming sites such as Netflix and movie rental kiosks like Redbox have become the primary methods for accessing and watching movies at home, Vulcan Video has found a way to offer something more. UT student Claire Hogan, a frequent visitor and member of the store, says she likes "the sense of community they have at Vulcan. It’s a more personal experience than going to RedBox or watching Netflix. People forget how great it is to be a browser."
Hogan frequents Vulcan Video about every other weekend and says loves being able to show up without a movie in mind and leave with five good ones. According to Hogan, Vulcan has something for everyone, from local film enthusiasts to bored college students in need of a movie to watch over the weekend. In return for such a personalized experience, customers show their loyalty, enabling Vulcan to remain a vital part of Austin’s culture. "I love showing loyalty to local businesses," Hogan says. "I love what they stand for.”
Ellisor also credits Vulcan Video’s success to Austinites' support of local businesses. “There’s something to be said about the city that it supports a business like ours. That’s the reason we’re still here. Even before record collecting became cool, Austin had record stores," she says.
The future of hard copy movie rentals may be uncertain, but there is a charming sense of nostalgia found in stepping foot into a video store. As Ellisor says, visiting Vulcan helps you “understand that there is something that can trump convenience.”
“I can’t imagine Austin without it,” Ellisor says. Hogan agrees that it’s something not a lot of other cities have to offer anymore.