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Movie Magic to shutter its doors after 22 years in the business

Jackie Merrill will keep her coffee business going after Movie Magic closes. - Jayce Smith
Jackie Merrill will keep her coffee business going after Movie Magic closes.
— image credit: Jayce Smith

After 22 years in business, Movie Magic will close its doors next week.

The store's owners have seen business drop dramatically in recent years, and changes they made last year to extend the life of the business were unsuccessful, said Jackie Merrill, who has owned the store with her husband Austin since 2003.

"We've been watching the numbers closely," Merrill said. "They have dropped severely."

Illustrating her point, Merrill said the store served only 16 customers on Thursday and 22 the day before that. On Friday — with the warmest temperatures so far this year and abundant sunshine — only three movie customers had come in by 1:30 p.m., and Merrill was not expecting many more.

"To have only that few customers in a nine-hour day, you can't pay to keep the store open," she said.

Roughly 70 customers a day are needed for the store to be reasonably profitable, she noted, and during the store's heyday in 2007, she and her staff consistently served many more customers than that.

But business has been in decline ever since. Technology is largely to blame, Merrill said, far more so than the arrival of NetFlix, the popular DVD-by-mail service. She likens her situation to that of Phil Spencer, who ended 25 years as the owner of Flash Photo in December. "Technology closed his business," she said.

Ultimately," she added, “everything will just come through your computer."

Many of her current customers are those without cable TV as well as those who do not have the means to have a computer or upgrade to the latest technology. But there are not enough of those people on Vashon to support the store, she said.

It is a sad time for her, accentuated by the store’s long history. Her in-laws, Al and Alice Merrill, opened the store more than 20 years ago. Austin Merrill has been involved with it that whole time, and Jackie Merrill has been part of the business since 1998.

"I've been in denial," she said. "I feel like we're doing a disservice to people in the community who come to rent a movie and escape."

She tells people who still want to rent movies on the Island to try the library or Vashon Market, which has a small DVD-rental section and will carry new releases.

Merrill and her husband rent the building from the older Merrills, who plan to sell it. Until they do, she will continue to operate the espresso portion of their business and relocate it if necessary.

"I will put all my energy and emphasis on the coffee stand," she said. Since she opened it when she first started with the store, it has only grown, she noted. She has some improvements in the works, including installing an oven to allow for more food choices and putting in outdoor seating in the summer.

She also plans to offer the building as a multi-purpose venue, which she will rent for $100, and give some classes there herself. Along those lines, she said, "There are some avenues that I am considering.”

Merrill noted that she is not the only Vashon business owner struggling and will continue to work with the Vashon Merchants Association in an effort to create a more vibrant town business core.

Still, it is the end of chapter for the store, and she hopes the reasons for closing are clear to the many loyal customers she has had over the years.

"I hope people understand," she said. "It's just timing."

 

The store's last day for movie rentals will be Tuesday, May 31, and movies will be due back by Thursday, June 2. A liquidation sale of fixtures and inventory will follow, beginning at 11 a.m. Friday, June 3, and continuing throughout the month. People who have store credit must use it up by June 30, or it can be applied toward coffee sales. The espresso drive-thru will be open for business from 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sunday.

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