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Meet Kevin Koppes of The Video Underground in Jamaica Plain

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kevin Koppes.

Kevin, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
The Video Underground first opened in 2002 in Jamaica Plain’s Hyde Square. Initially seeking to cater to those with non-mainstream tastes in film and television, The Video Underground quickly carved out a place in Jamaica Plain as a social and cultural hub. As tastes, markets, and the broader home entertainment industry has changed, The Video Underground has always sought to adapt, change, and serve the Boston metro area’s needs and interests.

On a personal level, I took over The Video Underground in March of 2014. Facing rising rents on Jamaica Plain’s Centre Street, I made the decision to move the business to Washington Street a couple months later. Since then, I’ve made a concerted effort to make the appeal of the business as broad as possible. As the primary owner and operator, I’ve added a full coffee/espresso bar, launched a regular in-house screening program, and provided local artists and artisans with unique retail opportunities. Additionally, I have future plans to add cafe seating, put on off-site screenings and events, and collaborate with other Jamaica Plain businesses to promote cinema and movie culture in Boston.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It goes without saying that the home media market has been turned on its head in the last 15 years. Streaming services increased access to broadband, and the movement away from brick-and-mortar retail have made what was once a robust and lucrative industry a shadow of its former self. Fewer people own devices with optical drives (DVD players, laptops, etc.) and many consumers no longer own TVs at all, opting instead to rely on mobile devices and tablets for entertainment. Less obviously, changes in the movie industry that have to lead to a much greater focus on TV programming and original content from streaming services. Where the zeitgeist once belonged to film, television has come to dominate critical and cultural attention, dovetailing with the streaming content delivery model at the same time.

The Video Underground has, of course, not been spared from these market shifts. In terms of the media arm of our operation, it’s assumed that revenue from physical media can’t help but wane in the years to come. Though there are customers form whom video rental is their primary means of access to entertainment, there’s no question that our catalog is supplementary at best and functionally unavailable at worst to most consumers.

The Video Underground – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The Video Underground is a media library, premium coffee/snack counter, and the only regular screening location in Jamaica Plain. It’s also the only business of its kind in Boston, and one of only a small number of existing media rental/retail metro-based businesses in the country. We serve as a social space for movie and coffee lovers, we provide the widest away of beverage options in the neighborhood, and we’re the only place in Jamaica Plain where you can catch a movie on a regular basis.

On the media front, we carry new releases, rare items, and a 15,000 title library catering to all tastes in film and television. For coffee and drinks, our menu includes everything from classic espresso drinks and pour over coffee to smoothies, specialty drinks, and custom tea blends. When it comes to screenings, we host regular features every Friday night with programming that has included silent film, cult classics, foreign films, and everything in between.

I would have to say I’m most proud of managing to maintain a retail operation that’s also a social space that brings people from all kinds of backgrounds and occupations together on a regular basis. The Video Underground customer base is comprised of an incredible socioeconomic breadth with a love for and appreciation of all types of cinema, the best coffee Jamaica Plain has to offer, and the draw of a neighborhood microcinema.

Of course, we do things that few would even consider doing in today’s business world. I know full well that for someone to start a company doing what we do would require both a unique skill-set and probably more money than sense. Nevertheless, I take what I do seriously, I take customer interests and recommendations to heart, and though I know that this business becomes more coffee shop than video store over time, I know what this business means to so many people from so many different walks of life.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I define success as “being adaptable, vital, and viable.” In a city changing as rapidly as Boston is, and in a neighborhood that’s frequently outpacing even that change, As long as I’m keeping up with that change while still keeping present customers in mind, serving a consistent and legitimate role in the community, and “keeping the lights on” with a focus on steady growth and broadened appeal, I consider what I’m doing a success.

Pricing:

  • Unlimited rentals with flat monthly fees and a base rate of two-at-a-time for $20 a month.
  • Premium coffee, beverages, pastries, and snacks, all priced below $4.50.
  • Tickets for regular in-house movies are $5, with savings on ticket bundles and occasional free screenings.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jake Belcher

Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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