Kensington Video Reopens — With Winnie And Juice
It’s hard to imagine a video store making it in this era of online rentals, streaming and binge-watching. The recently closed Kensington Video, a film lover's sanctuary on Adams Avenue, is giving it another shot.
The family-run movie rental shop has reopened in the same San Diego location, though the space is smaller and includes a juice bar.
It may look different now, but Kensington Video still has its most famous employee, 88-year-old family matriarch Winnie Hanford. The Hanford family has owned and operated a store at this location for 52 years.
Winnie — that's what everyone calls her — found retirement boring and missed recommending movies to customers. While the store closed this year for a remodel, she sold videos at a small station amid the construction. Now a glass case in the new store is devoted to movies within the category of "Winnie's Picks." The documentary "Young @ Heart," about a group of senior citizens who tour the country performing a cappella versions of well-known rock and roll songs from the likes of Sonic Youth, is positioned next to "Magic Mike XXL." When asked about the latter, Winnie laughs. "Well, you gotta have a little of that."
She also doles out a fair bit of medical advice to customers.
"The fella that was just in here, his shoulder was hurting and I told him to go home and ice it and take a Motrin," Winnie said. "Then I told him he has to eat four prunes every night."
That kind of personal treatment is the reason some San Diegans are happy to see the store reopen. Hilliard and Mary Ann Harper of Scripps Ranch popped in to get a smoothie and a movie.
"We like the choices they have. There's so much variety and movies you can’t find other places," Harper said. Her husband, Hilliard Harper, agrees: "You can find movies from the '40s and '50s when there was great style. You can find a movie like 'The Thin Man' here."
More than 70,000 films are in the Ken Video library, said Winnie's son, Guy Hanford, who owns and runs the store these days. He's still pulling DVDs out of storage, cataloging them and placing them on the 10-foot shelves lining one wall of the store. The store will have its official grand opening at the end of January. Guy Hanford's nephew took the store's other half to open a juice bar called Vida Juice. Tables and chairs in the center provide seating for film screenings, a feature Hanford hopes will become popular with young student filmmakers.
Customers will no longer be able to browse the narrow aisles and overstuffed shelves — once a charming feature of the old space. Ken Video's entire inventory, rich with foreign, rare and classic films, will be online, where customers can browse choices before leaving home or pick and choose from computer tablets on hand at the store. Once a decision is made, Hanford will retrieve the selected DVDs.
"That’s probably the biggest change for Kensington Video, that we’ll be able to streamline like that," he said. "And it’s not to get the customer in and out. It’s so we can have more time with them discussing film."
Hanford said he did have some doubts about reopening a movie rental store in the current culture of online viewing, but other priorities took over. "It wasn't about making money, though I'd like to pay the bills," he said. "It was about having something for mom and me to do. And we missed our customers and talking about movies."
As for Winnie, she couldn’t wait to return to the long days of chatting with customers. When asked if she'll eventually retire, she said she's happy to stay right behind the counter among the movies.
"I think this is the spot where I’ll finally just plop. (They'll say) she died right there."