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Video Vision closing West Duluth store

Closing sale signs are displayed at the Video Vision store at the Spirit Valley Mall in West Duluth on Friday evening. Video Vision was the first video store to open in Duluth and now it's the last year-round video place to close. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com

The first shall be last.

After opening the first video rental store in Duluth nearly 35 years ago, Brian Augustine is in the process of closing the last surviving year-round video store in town.

"The technology just passed us by," Augustine said on Friday from his Video Vision store in West Duluth's Spirit Valley Mall, which is in the midst of a closing sale. "Netflix. Downloading. All the young people are downloading their movies and games now. So they don't visit the video store anymore."

Augustine opened his first Video Vision on March 4, 1983, at 122 W. First St., and built it to six locations in the Twin Ports by the mid-1990s. "A little over 500 people worked for me," he said. "Mostly young people going to school."

But as streaming video gained in popularity, the market for video rental stores quickly declined in the early 2000s. The big chains, such as Blockbuster, arrived in town after Video Vision and exited long before. By the time of his stores' 30th anniversary in 2013, only one Video Vision and 8th Street Video offered video and DVD rentals in Duluth.

At the time, Augustine still had a second Video Vision in Superior. It remains open today.

"We're doing OK over there," he said. "People over here say they're going to go over there now, so it might breathe new life into that store."

The quirkily named 8th Street Video, which originally was located on Ninth Street, has reinvented itself as 8th Street Ice Cream, Movies and Antiques and now is on 47th Avenue East in the Lakeside neighborhood. A message via the store's voicemail says the store is closed for the season but will reopen in March.

Video and DVD rentals also are a thing of the past in Cloquet. McDonald Rentals on Highway 33 is doing just fine, said Jeannie Delles, the store's manager. But it rented out its last video on Jan. 6.

"Basically, videos are not being rented anymore," Delles said.

No other Cloquet store offers video and DVD rentals, she said.

The West Duluth Video Vision store began an everything-must-go closing sale on Tuesday, and it's going well, Augustine said.

"We got rid of half our inventory," he said on Friday morning. "People are lined up at the door right now."

The store is open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and the sale will continue until customers stop coming, Augustine said.