Thursday, September 29, 2022

‘Save Naro Video’ aims to raise $25k and rescue ‘largest’ East Coast movie store

Naro Expanded Video is aiming to raise $25,000 through a Kickstarter campaign to save the Colley Avenue storefront. (Adrienne Mayfield/Southside Daily)

NORFOLK — In a world where movie streaming websites like Netflix are king, one Norfolk video rental organization is fighting to stay alive.

But it might not survive without help from the community it has entertained for nearly 30 years.

Naro Expanded Video is launching a fundraiser Monday to help save the storefront from going under.

The Kickstarter campaign — titled “Save Naro Video” — aims to raise $25,000 by Sept. 29. Every penny will go toward strengthening the organization’s already expansive selection of 42,000 movie titles and funding community outreach events that are required by its new nonprofit status, said Naro board of directors member Perry Miles.

Touted as the East Coast’s largest movie rental storefront, the Naro has been a Ghent staple since 1989. Current owners, 71-year-old Tim Cooper and his wife, 72-year-old Linda McGreevy, bought the Naro Video in 1996, running it as a for-profit store until its status changed last year.

“I had a nervous breakdown trying to get things in shape because I had to restock everything,” Cooper said of his purchase of the store. “It took a couple of years, but then we were up to speed, and we’ve been servicing our customers for a long time now.”

Naro Expanded Video is home to 42,000 movie titles of every genre, including foreign, classic and romance. (Adrienne Mayfield/Southside Daily)

The storefront is filled with thousands of titles of movies in every genre, including foreign, action and romance. Miles said those who support Naro Video pride themselves on providing Norfolk with classic movies cinephiles can’t find on streaming websites, as well as the newer pictures everyone wants to see.

Business was going well until around 2008 when the economy started suffering and entertainment businesses, like Blockbuster, began to feel the tightening of purse strings, Cooper said.

“People signed up for Netflix, and Blockbuster and all the chains started going out of business,” Cooper said. “We held on.”

The Naro was given nonprofit status in 2016 as a hub of art, culture and education in Norfolk. The organization hoped the change would attract donors. Their contributions could help fund the rental and upkeep of the Colley Avenue storefront, aid in the expansion of movie titles and cover the cost of paying part-time employees and planning community outreach events, Miles said.

And while Naro Video has survived the last year and a half as a nonprofit, it hasn’t been without financial sacrifices on the part of Cooper and McGreevy, who have worked the rental counter without pay and given the organization about $20,000 out of pocket since 2016.

“Failure is just not an option,” Miles said of the fundraiser. “This has to succeed.”

If the Naro survives — and Cooper believes it will — the organization plans to expand their community outreach beyond movie critiques and discussions, to providing a cinematic experience for the elderly living at lower-funded retirement homes and for school children who’ve never had a chance to watch titles like “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

But most of all, they want people who have never been inside the shop to stop by Naro Video and pick up a movie.

“The American Film Institute in 1997 came out with a list of the 100 best films ever. Naro Video has 100 of those 100,” Miles said. “We need people to discover our collection of films and become patrons. That’s the whole key really.”

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