Video Underground Stays Open, Seeks to Rejuvenate Itself

Kevin Koppes, co-owner of Video Underground, pauses for a photo on March 13, 2014.

Chris Helms

Kevin Koppes, co-owner of Video Underground, pauses for a photo on March 13, 2014.

Jamaica Plain’s signature independent video store isn’t closing after all.

It’s true that on Feb. 17, Video Underground announced on its Facebook page that it would be closing soon.

But that was before cinephile, entrepreneur (and Celtics blogger) Kevin Koppes saw that post on Facebook. He knew right away something had to be done, that Video Underground couldn’t die like this after nearly 12 years in business.

The Iowa City transplant says he ran down to the store and started talking to owner Josiah Simmons and other board members. He quickly found out that the problems pushing the iconic shop into closing were surmountable.

“There was a low threshold to right the ship,” Koppes said Thursday afternoon behind the counter of the still-very-much-open Video Underground.

As of two weeks ago, Koppes came on as a co-owner with Simmons, who bought the store from founder Evonne Wetzner in 2011. Koppes said there’s no way a city like Boston can’t support a place like Video Underground. He points to examples around the country like Scarecrow in Seattle and Vulcan Video in Austin, Texas.

Koppes said Video Underground can be a “steady existing thing that can be a destination point…there’s enough interest in Boston for longtime vitality.”

The challenges facing video stores have been well cataloged and include Netflix and Comcast on-demand. But he points out that big box stores don’t necessarily wipe out the little guy, especially in supportive neighborhoods like JP. As an example, he said, people can get their oil changed at Wal-Mart, but folks still go to Arborway Auto.

One wrinkle is the iconic shop may wind up needing to move out of its digs at 385 Centre St.

“The plan is to stay in JP,” Koppes said. “As part of our rejuvenation, changing locations is a possibility.”