In Boston's Last Video Store, Conversation Fills the Void Left by Streaming Services

The Video Underground in Jamaica Plain is a video store, a cafe, a movie theater and a place to have real person-to-person conversation

If video killed the radio star, streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have all but killed the video store.

But what seems to be Boston's last video store, the Video Underground in Jamaica Plain, isn't going anywhere anytime soon, according to its co-owner and operator, Kevin Koppes.

"I think we've got this market pretty well cornered," Koppes said.

You can rent just about anything among its roughly 15,000 titles, some of which line the walls of the store on Washington Street — just not adult stuff, it is not that kind of video store.

"Most people who see this as being completely bereft of any value aren't really movie people," Koppes said. "They're the people who have watched Season 3 of 'The Office' on Netflix like every two weeks for like four years. That's not really our crowd."

Where it fills the void left by the movie- and TV-streaming services, Koppes said, is by offering a lot of foreign films and rare, out of print films, along with real person-to-person conversation, or maybe even some spirited debate.

Take Koppes' opinion of "Forest Gump," for example: "That's catnip for baby boomers and it's hogwash!"

The Video Underground, which opened in 2002 under different management, also doubles as a cafe, with what Koppes says is the best coffee in the neighborhood and, among other food options, crepes until the early afternoon.

On top of that, it has a small screening room that shows movies every Friday night.

Where the Video Underground is a bit like the streaming services is that, to rent a movie, you pay a flat monthly fee of $20, which comes with two passes to the Friday night screenings.

But Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are bad at guessing what Video Underground subscriber Casey Nelson likes, he said, and they don't have the "weird cult stuff that I can get here." Which is why he added the movie store to his list of subscription services.

"I started here for coffee, I started talking about movies with Kevin and that's when I started renting movies," said Nelson, a neighbor who's been coming for the last year and a half. "Now I come here for movies once every two days."

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