The end of an era
Pat McDonald remembers the days when families would walk out with 10 videos for the weekend like they were yesterday.
The advent of Redbox video rental machines, plus online movie services like Netflix, smart TVs and streaming for movies, television shows, sports and more were the final straw for Cloquet's last remaining video store.
After 28 years, McDonald Rental is closing its video rental and gift shop business by Jan. 6, to be replaced by indoor heated storage units sometime this spring. The other half of the rental business, which offers equipment rentals, party rentals, outdoor storage and a quick lube service, is not changing.
"Technology is changing, that's really the bottom line," said McDonald, who owns the business with her brother-in-law, Robert McDonald.
Stoic and practical through most of the interview, McDonald was overcome by emotion for a moment.
"It wasn't easy to quit," she said quietly.
Still, Cloquet hung on to its video store a lot longer than many other communities.
McDonald credits loyal customers, and the rural nature of the area, which means people don't always jump to adopt the latest technology.
"We had a lot of competition over the years, but they didn't last long," she said. "And I think adding the gifts gave us a little longer life."
Not every young person has transitioned to the world of online entertainment. Cloquet's Trista Boedigheimer was sad to learn the store was closing, and came in to buy hard copies of some of her favorite movies and television series. She was walking out with six seasons of "Shameless" and would have bought all of Grey's Anatomy if they'd still had it, she said with a chuckle.
"I've been coming in here since I was a little kid," she said. "Redbox is not the same. They don't have all the different types of movies, and they don't have the older ones either. I don't know what I'm going to do (after they close)."
Boedigheimer and her companion, Brandon Solem of Saginaw, started browsing again, even after buying $30 worth of future entertainment. The pair of movie buffs are in their element at McDonald's.
Staff are also sad about the change, although not surprised.
Longtime manager Marline Marti started working at the video store when it was located in downtown Cloquet at the corner of Cloquet Avenue and 14th Street, now the Panda Express restaurant. She started as assistant store manager and took over when the general manager retired. The video rental side of the business moved to the current location at 1208 Highway 33 South frontage road in 1992.
Marti remembers the days when they would have four or five students working on a weekend night.
"I loved it," she said. "All the people you meet, and going to the Twin Cities on buying trips. It was sad to see when (the movie rental part) really started declining."
She agreed with McDonald that adding gifts and balloons helped offset the declining movie sales. The business made other adjustments too, such as lowering late fees, and offering older movie packages for a weekend.
"It's been a nice long run and we appreciate all the business (our customers) did give us. I hope to see them on the other side," Marti said, explaining that she will be working on the equipment rental side after Jan. 6.
All gift items and cards are currently 50 percent off, and older movies and series are also for sale. The new release movies won't go on sale until Jan. 1.
And there is at least one more place in Carlton County that rents videos: TJ's Country Corner in Mahtowa offers movie rentals, for now.