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One of Maine's last DVD rental stores is closing after 15 years

Netflix (AP Photo)

BRUNSWICK, Maine (BDN) -- When Bowdoin College alum Bart D’Alauro and friend Greg Morris opened a video rental shop 15 years ago, they rented only DVDs.

At the time, D’Alauro said Tuesday, no one had DVD players and he had to convince customers to buy them.

On Sunday, though, D’Alauro, 44, will close the doors at Bart & Greg’s DVD Explosion! for the final time. One of only a few independent DVD rental stores in Maine, the store has been another victim of the very technology that led to its initial success.

While studying at Bowdoin College, D’Alauro befriended Morris when the two worked at Matt & Dave’s Video Venture in Brunswick. That store specialized in VCR movie rentals.

After graduation, while D’Alauro was working in New York City, Morris called him to pitch opening the store after Matt & Dave’s Video Venture closed.

“Matt & Dave’s customers would tell him all the time how much they missed Matt & Dave’s,” D’Alauro said.

So he quit his job and moved back to Maine.

“DVDs were at the cutting edge of technology at the time, but now technology has come back around and is closing us down,” D’Alauro said.

During the store’s heyday in the mid to late 2000s, Morris, who left the store years ago, suggested that it was only a matter of time before Bart & Greg’s would fall victim to the next wave of technology. He joked in an interview with a local newspaper that he could foresee a day when movies would be transmitted directly to viewers’ brains.

Technology hasn’t yet achieved that milestone. But as streaming video services such as those offered by Netflix, where another Bowdoin grad, Reed Hastings, is chief executive officer, became increasingly dominant, customer loyalty — which has fueled Bart & Greg’s in recent years — could only hold out for so long.

River Bottom Video in Bath, which D’Alauro helped open, closed three months ago. D’Alauro is aware of only two other DVD rental stores in Maine: Opera House Video in Belfast and Jet Video in Portland.

No longer renting DVDs at this point, the store is only open this week for customers to return discs “and pay late fees if they feel guilty,” he said.

D’Alauro said he’s operated at a loss for three years, not drawing a paycheck and working a second job in a library at Bowdoin College to pay the rent at Bart & Greg’s.

“I couldn’t bear to shut it down, but now there’s no money left,” he said. “I couldn’t pay the rent.”

He’s not sure what will happen to the thousands of DVDs housed in the Tontine Mall shop, although he’s spoken to a number of libraries about whether they would want to add the Bart & Greg’s inventory, which includes many rare classic and foreign films, to their collections.

D’Alauro will continue to work at the Bowdoin College library. Film buffs now will have to find him there if they want to debate whether Bong Joon-ho’s “The Host” paved the way for Guillermo del Toro to include a love scene between a fish creature and a human in “The Shape of Water” or ask if the placement of the TVs she watched while a clerk at Bart & Greg’s in 2007 inspired Lady Lamb to write “Crane Your Neck.”

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