The 2400 block of Owensboro's East 4th Street is like driving through an episode of Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone." On one corner stands Wonder Whip, a throwback from the nuclear-family-drive-in movie days, on the other Star Trax, one of the last bastions of movie rentals railing against the digital age.
Walking into the place is in and of itself a cinematic experience, not unlike walking into the lair of the Grail Night tucked away in some forgotten cave in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."
Except, unlike a 400-year-old knight offering the Cup of the Carpenter and the promise of eternal life, there is manager Steve Grimes and his constant feline companions Sage and Kalisse.
Grimes, a consummate movie buff, has been manning the counters of Star Trax since March of 1997, taking over managerial responsibilities in 2000, after four years of studying accounting and math education at Murray State University.
"I went to Murray State University for four years and didn't graduate," he said. "After college, I kind of sat idle and then a part-time job opened here."
Why do it? Why work day in and day out in a video/tanning salon? What is the motivation? Simple, he said, a passion for movies.
"I wanted to work at a video store as a kid, but didn't," he said. "I love movies. It is a challenge to see how long we can actually last in a world of digital and streaming. Years ago I wanted to outlast Blockbuster, and we did that; we outlasted them by eight and a half years. We were the last man standing for a while before Family Video opened and the Red Box machines. It is fun to me, everywhere I go I shop for movies. If we don't have something, I pick it up and bring it here."
While he doesn't own the shop, he is there dutifully seven days a week manning the helm from everything from blue-rays, VHS, vinyl records and CDs.
Grimes said if a customer wants it and they don't have it, they can usually get it. While someone renting a title is a rarity, local patrons primarily come in to buy, sell, trade or request that a long-lost title like "Tombs of the Blind Dead," be unearthed.
"It used to be rental," he said. "Now it is all sales, everything on the shelf. I quit putting price labels on them, but I can tell you this, most of the time our prices are better than the bigger stores."
As far as virtually unknown or rare titles, he gets them and calls those on his list looking for obscurities and cinematic wonders, especially those seeking out vintage VHS titles, which have become collectible, he said.
"The VHS go pretty fast," he said. "I have a list of a few people that I call and they come in and get them pretty quick. Especially VHS horror films. That is what everybody wants; they usually go the first day or two I get them."
One would expect a film-publican overseeing over 5,000 titles to have high-browed tastes in films, but not Steve. He maintains a humble reverence for cinema as opposed to a snobbish air. Horror, comedies, actions, kid movies, whatever the genre, as long as it has a good story, he said.
"I love "E.T.," "Greece," "A Clockwork Orange," "Green Book" and "Booksmart," he said. "There are so many good ones. I can't just name my favorites. We have thousands. I lost count because we get new stuff every day."
While he is open, his favorite genre, which probably explains the childlike exuberance he shows as he rummages through shelves and digs through boxes of tapes and DVDs, is the classic coming-of-age-story, he said.
"Edge of Seventeen," "Booksmart," those kinds of films," he said. "I guess it is because I miss my teenage years."
Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, firstname.lastname@example.org.