Erfan Vaezi, owner of Duncan’s Pioneer’s Video & More, first saw the potential for video-rental stores while working as an accountant for one in Toronto in 1984.
Vaezi moved to the Cowichan Valley for work-related reasons in 1989 and quickly recognized there was an opportunity here for video stores that rent good quality movies.
He opened his first Pioneer’s Video & More store in Pioneer Mall in 1991, which moved to Chemainus in 1993, and was quickly followed by Pioneer’s Video stores in Duncan, Cowichan Bay, Oak Bay and Ladysmith.
Vaezi said that during the height of the video-store industry, the Movie Gallery Inc. chain approached him to buy his stores in the Valley, but he refused the offer.
“But then, around 10 years ago, the industry began to go through a major transformation when DVDs were first introduced,” he said.
“When I first started in the industry, we’d have about two months to rent the latest movie releases before they became available to the public to buy, but when DVD’s came along, people could buy the new releases on the same day we received them to rent.”
Vaezi said he was able to develop sales strategies to remain competitive even then, but when the public could rent online, he knew his time in the industry was near.
The Pioneer’s Video & More store on Beverly Street in Duncan is now the only one of his locations left, and Vaezi has announced that too will close some time in November after all his stock is sold off.
“It was a good run and we provided a good service to the community in the 27 years we have been in business,” he said.
Sara Clark and her husband and three-year-old son are long-time customers. She said it’s a tradition to rent movies from Pioneer’s almost every weekend.
During her trip to the store last week she took photos and video of her son among the aisles of movies so that he’ll be able to look back on the experience of going to the video store as he gets older.
Vaezi himself has fond memories of Pioneer’s.
“I’m still working as an accountant in the area and I intend to spend my spare time now helping out with non-profit organizations,” said Vaezi. “My kids are all grown and I’m looking forward to a change in life. After all, how much money do you want?”
But Vaezi said he has concerns about his staff, whose numbers were as high as 35, now that all the stores will be closed.
“Some of my staff have been with me a long time, and I really hope they all get good jobs. One of my staff members who was pregnant almost had her baby in the store and, many years later, that baby grew up and worked with me as well.”
Vaezi said that there will be some big sales at the remaining store from now until the store closes.
“We have more than 27,000 movies, with many of them difficult to find anywhere,” he said.
“We were also a resource centre for local schools, so we have a large variety of documentaries and histories as well. This is the end of an era and this is the last video store that I know of between Victoria and Nanaimo.”