So a local businessman makes a financial decision that puts a perfectly good company out of business and six employees out of work at Christmastime. Do we call that teamwork?
The Madison Daily Leader reports that video/game-rental store Mr. Movies is going out of business. I had to read that headline carefully: Madison has two such stores, the newer corporate franchise Mr. Movies, next to JubiShine, and older locally owned Movie Guy, in the Schaefer Plaza of Commerce and Residential Development. Honestly, I thought Movie Guy would be the first to fold—since when does the little local outfit win against the deep-pocketed colonialism of franchises sucking the life and independence out of communities?
But this closing does not appear to be a function of normal market competition. Mr. Movies was chugging along just fine under the management of Brad Wede. The axe comes from landlord and grocery monopolist Dan Roemen, who owns the property and the adjoining Sunshine Foods. Mr. Movies' lease runs out at year end, and Roemen declined to renew it. MDL's Elisa Sand reports that "he plans to expand his business."
Oh really? JubiShine plans to expand its product selection? Are they planning to add products that we can't currently buy here in Madison? Maybe add some more baby products, or an organic section like Hy-Vee? Or are we just getting a bigger liquor section? Because heaven knows Madison doesn't already have enough places to buy booze.
Wede says he's trying to find a way to keep the business in Madison. "I hate to see Madison lose something else," he tells MDL's Sand. "We've taken so many hits." He's right, especially on both the culture and jobs front. If we're all supposed to be a team behind the Forward Madison goals (and as I review my old Forward Madison flier from the LAIC, there's Dan Roemen's name on the list of development council members), why would we make any business decision that reduces jobs, competition, consumer choice, and entertainment options? Will the expansion of an existing store really replace the six jobs lost by evicting another independent business?
I can think of a number great spaces where we could keep Mr. Movies downtown, including the current Miller Construction office on North Egan and the old Rosebud building across from MDL on South Egan. Those spaces both housed Madison's original video store, Adventureland Video, back in the good old days when we'd check out a movie and a big honking VCR with the Johnny Five top-loading cassette ejector. But Wede's already been looking around, and he says the spaces he's checked so far don't satisfy corporate franchise requirements. Nuts!
I wonder: is there any chance we can build a new building? Maybe we can get some LAIC development dollars to help build a sparkly new building to keep this employer in town. And as much as I like competition, maybe it's time for our entertainment competitors to work together and build a new entertainment complex for Madison. Carol Frager, owner of Movie Guy, also runs the West Twin movie theater. I love having the opportunity to see big screen movies in Madison, but that 30-year-old facility is deteriorating.
Maybe Frager and Wede could join forces to build a new movie complex in town, perhaps right in that inviting empty slot between Montgomery's Furntiure and Lewis. We could move the movie theater in from that old gravel lots to a nice paved urban, more easily accessible to pedestrians (there are no sidewalks out to the current theater; plus you have to risk your life dodging cars headed for drinks at Nicky's and the bowling alley). Put in two screens for new movies, add video and game rental next door, like the downtown theater does in Chamberlain... there's your business plan!
Losing any business in Madison, when retail is down and unemployment up to 7% heading into the holidays, is bad. Closing a healthy business due to one landlord's decision is even worse. Let's put some heads together, Madison, and figure out a way to keep six jobs and some competition in our local entertainment market.
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