PORTLAND — Want to view any of the 18,000 movies and shows now stocked at Videoport?

Get ready to go to the library.

Owner Bill Duggan on July 15 said he is terminating his lease next month and will donate the business’ entire inventory of videos to the Portland Public Library.

“There are so many other venues for home entertainment,” Duggan said. “We have lost our pricing power on the marketplace.”

Videoport opened at 151 Middle St. in 1987. Customers can continue to rent movies until Aug. 15, and must return them by Aug. 22.

Even if Internet subscription services such as Netflix have reduced Videoport’s bottom line, employee April McLucas and customer Ben Bornstein said the store’s draw remains strong.

“Most of my life has revolved around Videoport,” McLucas said.

She got her first Videoport customer card in 1992, and a job at the business in 2002. Working there led to an evolved taste in movies, especially silent films and offbeat indies such as “The Station Agent” and “Bad Boy Bubby,” McLucas said.

The former is about a dwarf resettling in New Jersey and making unique friendships, the latter about a young man who escapes imprisonment in a small room after 30 years and discovers the wider world.

“The one I used to gauge people was ‘Bad Boy Bubby,'” McLucas said.

Duggan said a key to Videoport’s success was allowing employees latitude and encouraging them to widen their own viewing horizons.

Duggan estimated he employed about 90 people over the years, and still keeps in touch with most of them as friends and customers.

“I tried to empower people to be able to serve the customer right there at the counter,” Duggan said. “We probably had zilch turnover.”

“This is kind of like an icon in the city,” Bornstein said before asking Duggan what could be done to keep the store open.

But Duggan said the time has come to close.

“I’m fine, I’m looking forward to getting caught up. I’m not worried about getting bored,” he said, and plans to spend more time boating, skiing and practicing yoga.

A former salesman who was clued into the rising popularity of VHS movie rentals in the mid-1980s because he sold popcorn to rental stores in Boston, Duggan said he chose Portland to open a store over places like Portsmouth, Nashua and Manchester, New Hampshire, and Providence, Rhode Island.

“We saw there was a lot of retail space that was very reasonable,” he said. “We chose Portland, and I am so happy we did.”

Duggan said the availability of Internet streaming might make it hard to understand the impact video stores had 25 years ago.

“The store was special for Baby Boomers and GenXers,  because everyman could have access to movies,” he said. “One of the most fun parts was deciding what movies to (keep in inventory) and how many copies.”

Donating the inventory to the library provides closure, Duggan said.

“It was the only way I could do this transaction and feel good about it,” he said.

Library Executive Director Sarah Campbell said the collection will effectively double the library’s offerings while preserving a business legacy.

“We are so grateful that Videoport has chosen to make this gift to the library, and plans are underway to incorporate their collection into the PPL holdings as quickly as possible,” she said.

McLucas, meanwhile, said she will miss her job.

“The customers are loyal, they are movie geeks,” she said. “I’m glad we were here for them.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements

Videoport opened at 151 Middle St. in Portland in 1987 after owner Bill Duggan scouted store locations in five New England cities. The store will close next month, and donate its inventory to the Portland Public Library.

After learning July 15 that Videoport will close next month, customer Ben Bornstein, left, asked owner Bill Duggan what could be done to keep the Portland business open. “This is kind of like an icon in the city,” Bornstein said.

Videoport employee April McLucas was a customer first, in 1992. A decade later, she was hired at the Portland store. “Most of my life has revolved around Videoport,” she said July 15.

filed under: