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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : features : people, places & past February 6, 2016

10/15/2013 2:57:00 PM
A Sign of the Times: Planet Video succumbs to Netflix, iTunes
The Holdout: Modern entertainment technology is putting a long-time Cottonwood video store out of business. (VVN/Jon Pelletier)
The Holdout: Modern entertainment technology is putting a long-time Cottonwood video store out of business. (VVN/Jon Pelletier)
Stephanie Reese has been manager at Planet Video for 14 years. VVN/Jon Pelletier
Stephanie Reese has been manager at Planet Video for 14 years. VVN/Jon Pelletier

Yvonne Gonzalez
Staff Reporter

A Cottonwood fixture for nearly 14 years, Planet Video now has the remainder of its merchandise stacked neatly along the walkways below half-empty shelves.

Owner Bruce Bissen said Planet Video started seeing trouble about seven years ago when CD sales began declining across the country in favor of online buying and digital downloads. What used to make up about 50 percent of the business slowly began to shrink.

Services like Netflix, first through mail and then online streaming, and Red Box cut into the DVD portion of the business.

"We're probably making 35 percent of what it was in its heyday," Bissen said.

Bissen bought the business in the mid-'90s. It was located in a 3,000-square-foot space in the Fry's shopping center until Bissen decided to move to a larger building.

On New Years Eve 1991, the business opened  in a storefront (next to what is now Office Max) more than twice the size of the original location. Bissen changed the name from Jesse's Books, Music & Video to Planet Video, coinciding with another store he'd bought in Payson.

Bissen stopped carrying books, but continued renting out VHS's and buying and selling CDs. Later, he would add DVDs to the selection.

The landlords of the property worked with Bissen for his last couple of lease renewals.

"Because of the downturn in business, they were somewhat flexible as far as helping me lower my property cost," Bissen said.

He considered moving to a smaller location and simply downsizing the business, but decided against it.

"It wasn't quite worth having to spend money to move to a smaller location for a business that has been on the decline anyway," Bissen said. "Long-term prospects for the overall industry don't look good."

He sold the Payson location a few years ago. The changing nature of the industry made it clear to Bissen that he wouldn't be retiring as the owner of Planet Video.

"It's something I've expected for the last few years," he said. "I really did not expect to keep doing it as long as I have."

Loyal customers and the implementation of a one-day rental policy slowed the business's decline, but not enough to keep the store open.

Planet Video employs seven people part-time, including a manager who has worked for Bissen for 14 years.

"A couple of them have stuff lined up," he said. "Others are waiting until we're completely closed."

Bissen "definitely won't be retiring" and has a couple of ideas for new businesses he can open in the Verde Valley, where he's lived for more than 20 years and raised five children with his wife.

Three of their kids were born in the Verde Valley, and all of them went through Dr. Daniel Bright Elementary, Cottonwood Middle School, Mingus Union High School and onto Arizona universities.

"All five of my kids have worked at the store while they were in high school," he said. "My youngest is 18 and he's working in the store right now."

He said he's proud of the customers he's been able to provide with entertainment and the local fundraisers that have allowed him to contribute.

"Cottonwood has all kinds of great volunteers doing projects," he said.

Merchandise is currently 30 percent off, and the store will stay open until all of it is gone.

"A big thank you to the loyal customers that I've had," he said. "I've developed friendships with a lot of them and I'm going to miss it, but it's been a good 18 years."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Article comment by: 'Ha Ha Ha' proves

there still are a number of tactless jerks in C'wood.

Planet: Yours was a good place to shop staff was always helpful and knowledgeable, g'luck to Bruce, et al.

Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Article comment by: G. Martin

Whatever you call it, Jesse's or Planet Video it's another sad loss to Cottonwood and the Verde Valley. It was a great family owned business that would help with anything related to entertainment, maybe their prices weren't as cheap as Wal-Mart but how can they be and still turn a profit, they tried but couldn't.
For all those good years and service my family and I say Thank You and all the best in whatever you do in the future!

Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Article comment by: Thanks and good luck to Bruce

We have patronized this business many times over the years, including when it was Jesse's.

I will always support a locally owned and operated business like this any day of the week over a national chain like Blockbuster or Walmart or whatever.

Unlike the owners of non-local businesses, the Bissens are contributing members of our community and recirculate their profits back here.

Thanks for providing this business and good luck on your next endeavor Bruce.

Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Article comment by: Milton and Leslie So sad :(

We are both so sad to see this wonderful video store leave. Stephanie was always so helpful and kind and always had a smile for us. What will we do without a video store now ? Good luck to all of you and always know that we loved you !!!

Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Article comment by: Bill Klein

Thanks for your great business and community presence. We will miss The Planet.

Posted: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Article comment by: Ha Ha Ha ...

Well, never wanted to shop/rent there at all anyways, because it was always over priced and not worth putting your kids through college over.

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