Jerry Neeley is one of those lucky few who has turned a hobby into a money-making proposition. Neeley, owner of Jerry's Video Reruns in Los Feliz, prides himself on having just about every type of film that a renter could want. But, he says, it's not just the selection that makes the store so special, it's that each and every employee lives for films, a quality they share with their loyal customer base. Staff reporter Conor Dougherty talked with Neeley about his gargantuan video collection and how he manages to stay ahead of large chains.
"Back in the '60s I was a reporter for the St. Louis Democrat, and then I was associate editor of a magazine called Fantastic Films. So I was always sort of interested in films.
"I had met a friend of a friend at a party who owned a video store. He had just opened and he had problems getting the right people working for him. I volunteered to help him out. This was 1986 or 1987. After a few months he decided to get out of the business and move to Florida. My friend and I decided to buy the store.
"I wanted the store geared towards the knowledgeable film buff. Basically, my main rule was to operate the store the way I would want to rent movies.
"We break our categories down differently than most stores. For instance, you can follow a particular director's career or go searching for a popular actor. Our horror section is broken down into cult directors, (David) Cronenberg has a section, Ed Wood, and then we'll have subjects like vampire films and werewolf movies.
"I like to specialize in hard-to-find films. Horror is one of our primary specialties. We have 34,000 different titles, which is about three times the average Blockbuster store. That's different titles, we don't carry 40 of the same one.
"We get a lot people doing research. Writers and directors have come here, a lot of industry people, also a lot of film students. We also cater to our neighborhood crowd and do carry new titles.
"I make sure my employees are knowledgeable about films. I've always hired people who are film students or wanted to be in the film industry. A lot of chains have people working of them who could just as easily be selling shoes.
"I think I could open a store on the same block as Blockbuster and do just fine. It's a different crowd. Chains are a good place to go if you only want a new release."
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