Renting movies may be considered a thing from the past, but business is still booming in Kelowna. However, Leo’s store owner and founder, Leo Bartels, says perhaps it is time he hits pause on his leadership role at the shop.
The popular video rental store on Pandosy is chugging along with over 25,000 titles, board games and Magic the Gathering cards available for it’s regular and new-coming customers. And Leo’s is looking for another movie-loving employee to help with the increased traffic.
Bartels opened the store in 2004 and he said he feels new ownership could take Leo’s to new heights.
“I intend to sell the store now,” he said. “I have just felt it needs new energy.”
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Bartels said. “I really want the store to stay alive and be a part of Kelowna, but I don’t feel like I have the energy for what’s best for the store.”
Bartels has only recently returned to work after a life-changing year of loss, separation, grief and growth.
“I got divorced like a year and a half ago and my dad died at the same time,” he said. “It was a slightly heavy time and I just got sick of talking about it, so I let one of my staff take over as manager for a year and went on my way and did other things.”
While on leave, Bartels rediscovered his love of being a video-rental customer — an experience, he said, he hasn’t had since he was 19 years old and working in a Blockbuster-type store.
“I was totally out of the loop, so I had to go through just like a customer and have staff recommend movies and I enjoyed that experience,” he said. “They got me to branch out and go outside what I would normally watch.”
It is that customer interaction that Bartels loves most about this industry, he said. He thrives himself on being good at picking people’s brains and finding them the right movie for the mood they are in.
“It’s like a really fun game,” he said.
Bartels, who watches around 300 titles a year, said movie rental stores are an important community hub in any town.
“There is still a good business in it,” he said. “Netflix has around 2,800 titles, where we have like 25,000. There’s just so much stuff you can’t get there, or on Shaw on Demand or Amazon Prime.”
“That give us lots of room, especially with new stuff.”
The nostalgia of renting movies is one reason Bartels suspects the industry is growing.
Bartels said Leo’s has customers that rent movies from him nearly every day and people always say how grateful they are the store exists. They tell him they love to bring their kids to pick through the seemingly endless shelves of movies, just like they did when they were children.
And Bartels and his knowledgeable staff will be there to help select the right film for you.
“In no way do I want the store to go anywhere,” he said. “But I want to go back to school.”