In the Spotlight
This owner of the last independent video rental store in Marin County continues to defy the odds.
IN AN AGE where Blockbuster stores are obsolete and Netflix, Hulu and On Demand rule the screens, Bette Wolczanski enters her ninth year as owner of Bette’s Flicks, a neighborhood video joint providing customers with something online streaming can’t — a sense of community.
How did you first become interested in film? I grew up in New York at a time when some of the neighborhoods were not very nice. Instead of going outside and playing, we were kept inside with the TV so I used to watch movies all day.
Did you have a favorite film growing up? Yes, All About Eve with Bette Davis. Bette Davis is my favorite actress and my hero because she opened the doors for a lot of actresses. I changed my name to spell it just like hers.
How did you come to own a video store? I worked for Video Droid for 20 years; then in ’09 they closed up all their stores and I bought this one.
With so much competition from online streaming how do you stay afloat? It’s really thanks to the community. I’ve had several fundraisers on GoFundMe and everyone in the neighborhood has come to support. I made $15,000 on the first one, enough to buy my partner out and keep the store going.
What’s the most popular genre? Foreign TV shows. That’s what really got me on the map. There used to be an international TV station that people loved and then suddenly it was cut off. I was able to get the international shows that people were looking for, but then I found all these other foreign sitcoms that I decided to add to my collection, which continue to be the most popular.
What do you like most about your job? I love talking to people. I’m a people person and I’ve made tons of friends and am even a little sad when I’m not here. I just love film and being around people.
What are your plans for the future? Well, I’m not making that much money so if I really want to stay I’ll probably try to go nonprofit. There’s all kinds of ways that I can share my films as a nonprofit: contribute to libraries and senior citizen homes or donate educational films to schools.
When is your next fundraiser? This fall. It will be at Redwoods Presbyterian Church in Larkspur. I make a whole dinner, lasagna, salad, and everybody pays $40. We have a band and a silent auction; it’s a lot of fun.
Bette’s Flicks, 586 Magnolia Avenue,