BRUNSWICK — When Bart and Greg’s DVD Explosion opened at the Tontine Mall in 2002, many people in town were still using VCRs.
On New Year’s Eve, Bart and Greg’s closed its doors for the final time, in an era when Netflix and other streaming services have become the most popular option for watching movies at home.
Bart and Greg’s was established after Matt and Dave’s Video Venture, A popular independent video store, was bought out by Video Galaxy, a now-closed commercial video store.
Owner Bart D’Alauro and his former business partner Greg Morris, both one-time employees of Matt and Dave’s, saw an opportunity.
“A lot of people didn’t even have DVD players at the time, but they wanted so badly to rent from us that it wasn’t hard to talk them into getting it,” D’Alauro said.
These days, D’Alauro, a Bowdoin alumnus, works full time at the college’s library. He said the job was necessary; he hasn’t taken home a paycheck from Bart and Greg’s since around 2014.
“(The store) hasn’t been making a profit for a long time,” D’Alauro said. “I’ve been saying three years, but I was taking less and less from the store and bringing home less and less. What’s payroll for myself is hard to determine.”
Part of what allowed Bart and Greg’s to remain open so long, years after commercial rental giants like Blockbuster closed, was a loyal older fan base. Many of them continued to rent DVDs even after they subscribed to Netflix, just to support the business.
“We have a lot of old customers, a lot of them were later coming to streaming, they didn’t jump on that right away,” D’Alauro said. “But I think Netflix just became a habit, so they’d come in less and less. They’re used to just sitting at home, flipping through page after page and finally settling on something.”
Morris is no longer involved with the business and lives out of state. D’Alauro said they are still friendly, and Morris is aware of the store’s closure.
In its final week, Bart and Greg’s no longer rented out DVDs, but remained opened to accept returns.
As of Dec. 28, D’Alauro said 250 DVDs were still due to be returned. He was hopeful all of them would come back, but added he was prepared to make 250 calls if need be.
Customers also came in during the store’s last week just to say goodbye, which D’Alauro said became somewhat overwhelming.
“I do start to sound like a robot after a while. But yeah, I do appreciate how many people have shown up to say we’re going to be really sad you’re gone,” he said.
On Dec. 28, D’Alauro’s father and his son were helping him pack up the store. The owner said some of his favorite memories are of days when he had a staff of fellow “movie nuts” working for him.
“For a long time it was just me,” he said. “And I still liked telling customers about things I really enjoyed watching, but it’s not the same if you don’t have a bunch of people. (It’s like) a built-in movie club.”
D’Alauro said his easy answer for his favorite movie is “Claire’s Knee,” a 1970 film by French filmmaker Eric Rohmer, but his “just as honest” answer is “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.”
As for what will happen to the store’s DVDs, the owner said he thinks much of the store’s historical collection, comprising films from the beginning of cinema until around 1976, will end up at Curtis Memorial Library. He added Bowdoin College might take some movies from that section, which he called “the heart of the collection.”
Titles like “L’avventura” and “La Dolce Vita” will likely be brought home for D’Alauro’s personal collection.
Above all else, D’Alauro said he hopes people’s interest in film doesn’t diminish as the years go on.
“Keep watching movies. That’s my final statement,” he said. “People don’t get excited about movies anymore. They’re watching prestige television, whatever that is. Don’t forget about movies; keep watching.”
Bart D’Alauro, owner of Bart and Greg’s DVD rental store in Brunswick, stands in front of half-empty shelves during the store’s final week in business on Dec. 28, 2017. The popularity of Netflix and other streaming services led to a decline in business during recent years.
Bart and Greg’s owner Bart D’Alauro, right, helps a customer during the store’s final week on Dec. 28, 2017.