This U.S. city is now home to the world’s last surviving Blockbuster
When Sandi Harding took the general manager job at her neighborhood Blockbuster nearly 15 years ago, she wouldn’t have predicted she’d be the last of her kind on Earth.
And yet, after the world’s penultimate Blockbuster store announced it would be closing its doors in Australia at the end of the month, it’s Bend, Oregon’s Harding that will claim the honor of last one standing.
“It’s pretty exciting, I have to admit,” she told Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM.
And if it weren’t exciting, it would certainly be ironic. Harding wasn’t exactly looking for a job that would last as long as it did — as a stay-at-home mom, she was just looking to get out of the house.
“I just wanted a part-time job,” she said. “I wanted something to keep me out of the house, away from the kids, give me something to do. That’s kind of how I got sucked into working at Blockbuster.”
But out of the 9,000 retail stores Blockbuster had at its peak, it is the store that she and all of her children have worked at that remains. The secret to outlasting the fate that met the other independent franchises that held out, Harding says, is having a loyal pool of customers.
“It has a lot to do with local Bend customers,” she said. “If you’ve ever been to Bend, Oregon you know there are lots of signs everywhere that say ‘Shop Local.’”
Despite struggling to get movies from studios, including Disney, Harding’s store has persevered. And despite the dominance of streaming options like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, which largely drove Blockbuster to its demise, Harding says her store manages to log about 10 new members a day.
“They don’t have all the classics that we do,” Harding notes.
A Blockbuster attraction
But it’s not just locals that have been frequenting what has now become the world’s last Blockbuster. Tourists from around the world have passed through, taking pictures with movie memorabilia, buying T-shirts, or simply to sign the Bend Blockbuster guestbook.
“We have a couple guestbooks up on the counter and I filled two of them up already,” she said. “I put a third one up on Monday because we have so many people traveling here to see us,” Harding said.
And while HBO’s “Game of Thrones” might be the most popular rental the last Blockbuster in the world has to offer right now, there is a chance a documentary of the store itself might land on its shelf soon. As the Bend Bulletin reports, two local filmmakers raised over $39,000 on Kickstarter to document the store in all its glory. Even if the mom from Bend, Oregon never saw it coming.
“We weren’t expecting it, but it’s pretty wonderful.”