The return of Black Lodge Video brings innovation to analog retail

Black Lodge Video, an indie staple for renting hard-to-find movies is making its big comeback by late spring in the Crosstown area with an innovative new approach.

The new 8,000-square-foot location at 405 N. Cleveland Avenue will include a massive 30,000-plus film library, along with a fast-casual restaurant, a retro and console gaming arcade, and film and event space.

Locally-owned Black Lodge Video closed its Midtown location at 831 Cooper Street in 2014.

The two original partners, Matthew Martin and Brian Hogue, opened Black Lodge Video in 2000. After it closed down, Martin brought on additional partners to help build and develop the business. The six primary owners are now Martin, Nick Riley, James Bryce Blair, Scotty Theunissen, Keith Norman and Danny Grubbs.

“We’re going to be selling primarily memberships,” said Grubbs, Black Lodge operations manager. “Think of it as similar to a subscription [streaming] service like a Netflix or an Amazon Prime but in real life.”

Memberships will run approximately $10 per month.

“The video rental store – the Blockbusters of the world – those things have been dead for more than a decade. There are maybe only 400 video stores left in the country,” said Grubbs. “Even though original Black Lodge Video was a self-sustaining business, it wasn’t necessarily profitable.”

Martin, Hogue and Grubbs had discussed the possibility of starting an online streaming service back in 2012 and 2013 but quickly realized that was the wrong approach.

“Instead we decided to build a destination retail nightclub inside the original location,” said Grubbs. House parties there quickly swelled into the hundreds, too much for the house and surrounding neighborhood to handle, but out of the venture came ideas that would be applied to the Crosstown location.

The new layout of the Crosstown building, which had been the well-known Mary’s gay and lesbian bar more than a decade ago, has been designed by LRK. The major overhaul of the space includes installing a new roof along with plumbing and electrical systems. Chris Miner from Crosstown Arts is co-lead on the project helping Black Lodge to navigate the renovation.

Grubbs compares the new Black Lodge to the Nickelodeons from the early 1900s, with the goal being to create an atmospheric, comfortable, inexpensive place where people can go to hang out, grab a bite to eat and watch movies, play games or catch a live event.

“People don’t assume that video rental has a future, but we’re here to disrupt that notion and show people a really good time,” he said.

The store will hire 15 to 20 people by the time everything is up and running in the spring.

The Black Lodge folks have also stayed busy since the Midtown store shut down by partnering with the Memphis Public Library, Indie Memphis, and Malco Theaters – most notably in putting on the highly popular Time Warp series at the Malco Summer Drive-in. The 2018 Time Warp lineup representing the fifth year for the monthly series was just announced.

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Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.