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Kensington Video making a comeback

By Dave Schwab

Like the mythical phoenix, Kensington Video has pledged to rise from the ashes of the old to establish the new.

“We’re going to create a whole different type of video experience here,” said Guy of the Hanford family. The Hanfords closed their mom-and-pop video store at 4067 Adams Ave. that they had operated for nearly 50 years back in March.

In the 1980s, family matriarch Winifred “Winnie” Hanford had allowed son Guy to convert a small portion of their existing gift shop for movie rentals to realize his dream of turning his hobby into a profitable business. Thirty years later, the four family members involved — mom and dad Winnie and Rich, now in their 80s, and son Guy and daughter Pam Sisneros — made a joint decision to retire.

It lasted all of three months.

Winifred “Winnie” Hanford and Guy Hanford say they plan to open a new version of Kensington Video, just a couple of months after they closed down. (Photo by Dave Schwab)

Winifred “Winnie” Hanford and Guy Hanford say they plan to open a new version of Kensington Video, just a couple of months after they closed down. (Photo by Dave Schwab)

“The big mistake we made was we never took any time off,” Guy said, explaining why their retirement failed. “When we closed, it was a still a very vibrant business. We closed because mom and dad wanted to retire, and Pam wanted to enjoy her grandchildren. We never gave ourselves an opportunity to recharge the battery. After about two or three months, we found out how much we missed it.”

Noting she never “really” wanted to retire, Winnie said she was overcome by the public reaction to their departure.

“People were so depressed over the store closing,” she said. “They’d send me emails and letters. Some people came in and cried and hugged us. It was like a family was leaving them — and they were leaving us.”

“There was such a connection,” Guy said. “It was so much more than a video store.”

Then came a business “proposition” from another family member.

“My nephew came in and said he wanted to open a juice and smoothie place,” Guy said about his relative who wanted to obtain a Jamba Juice franchise, which costs about $300,000. “He was short about $299,999.”

“I wanted to have some excuse to come back,” Guy said, thinking that “Here is something we could combine with my dream and (family film) history.”

Guy stood recently in the stripped-down shell of what had previously been one huge retail building, which is now divided into two separate sections, both of which his family owns. He said about two-thirds of the building space will be rented out to Kensington Pet Supply & Dog Wash, which will be moving in from down the street. The remaining space will be reconstituted as an updated video shop.

Guy talked about his video store reboot, and his vision for the future.

“My idea is to bring a fruit, juice and smoothie bar into about one-third of the space near the back where the checkout counter used to be,” he said. “We’re no longer going to have the (video) selection out on the floor. It’s all going to be computerized with a searchable database.”

Behind him, Guy gestured toward the new shop’s sidewall.

“This whole wall is going to be shelves 10-feet-high loaded with DVDs, and all this down here (new counter) is going to be jewel cases,” he said adding, “I’m calling it the ‘dog run’ because that is where I’m going to be going (retrieving customer requests).”

Guy wants the resurrected video store to be a true mecca for film buffs, and a showplace for emerging filmmakers.

“The main thing we want to do is reach out to the film community at all the colleges and universities and have this be a free venue for students to come and show their innovative films, their short films that they’re making,” Guy said. “I’ve already approached the professors at all the colleges and they’re excited.”

Guy intends to build a state-of-the art theater with all the bells and whistles, with seating for 40 or 50 people.

“People can come in have a smoothie and watch a movie,” he said. “I think both of those activities go hand-in-hand and will support each other.”

Guy also wants to bring guests in to lecture about film.

“This is going to be a destination for film lovers,” he said. “That’s exactly what I want it to be.”

The ever-popular “Winnie’s picks,” mom’s favorite recommendations from movies she reviews daily, will return.

Guy said he is glad they didn’t have a fire sale when they closed four months ago. He has his entire collection of nearly 70,000 titles in storage in 350 or so boxes in a warehouse.

He offered his unrivaled collection, which he values at about $1 million, to San Diego State University for a quarter of the cost. The university was extremely interested, but couldn’t find the funding. Guy also tried getting established online but noted, “competition is absolutely fierce.”

Guy Hanford said Kensington Video’s remodel should be complete by September or October.

Will there be a big grand re-opening party?

Winnie’s not telling — for sure. But she hinted it might involve people dressing up in costume.

 Dave Schwab can be reached at dschwabie@journalist.com.

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