Adieu, Alan’s Alley: Video Shop’s Closing Credits Scrolling Soon

The old Ninth Ave. store, between W. 22nd & 23rd Sts., is now occupied by Garber Hardware
The old Ninth Ave. store, between W. 22nd & 23rd Sts., is now occupied by Garber Hardware. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | They say all good things come to an end, and after nearly three decades of providing recommendations and rentals, Alan’s Alley Video is closing. “We’re really in the process of shutting down,” owner Alan Sklar recently told Chelsea Now at his W. 23rd St. apartment. Sklar, 67, opened his original store at 207A Ninth Ave. (btw. W. 22nd & 23rd Sts.) in November 1988, and moved to his current apartment around a year later. “It took me about a year to realize that this would be the best neighborhood for me to live in; like around the corner from the shop,” he said. For 26 years, Alan’s Alley was a Ninth Ave. staple — but a higher rent that Sklar couldn’t swing forced him to close at that location. “[The landlord] was asking me for a reasonable rent. It’s just that the nature of the video business had changed over the years,” he explained. Sklar had a “going out of business” sale, but found another spot for his store at 164 W. 25th St. near Seventh Ave., and opened there in August 2014. However, being on the fifth floor decreased foot traffic, Sklar told Chelsea Now in March 2015. The landlord then wanted to partially close the building to facilitate elevator repairs. “So customers would only be able to use a freight elevator, and that probably wouldn’t have been opened enough hours for me,” Sklar said. “We wouldn’t have been able to survive that, you know, that elevator being down.” Sklar said the landlord “wasn’t a big fan” of his and was kind of pushing him out of the building. After about a year on 25th St., Sklar closed that location in August 2015 and began scouting for another in the neighborhood. It was important to stay in Chelsea because that’s where his customers were, he said. “So when I started looking for other places, it was staggering what had happened in the year,” Sklar said. “Prices had gone up so dramatically.” He looked for other office spaces and for tiny places at street level, but rents had shot up so much that Sklar said he could have never survived. “I looked for a few months even after we shut down, and I realized that we just weren’t going to get the space in Chelsea that we needed,” he recalled. It took two years for his former space on Ninth Ave. to be filled when Garber Hardware opened last summer. He went in and chatted with the new owner, and said he was “really happy to see a neighborhood kind of hardware store move in. Very happy that they’re there — that it’s not a 7-Eleven or something.” Since last August, Sklar has been working out of his apartment and is now in the process of wrapping up the business. While he is no longer renting movies, he will make an exception if a former customer really wanted to do so. He is also still acquiring movies at times for customers. He said some of his corporate clients still call, but much of the advertising work he used to do has dwindled as people don’t need a physical disc like they once did. Sklar does continue to work on projects for those honored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center — like Amy Adams, Ethan Hawke, and Morgan Freeman — helping to get DVDs for the honoree’s montage.

Alan Sklar, at the Chelsea apartment he originally moved into because of its proximity to the store’s Ninth Ave. location. Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic.
Alan Sklar, at the Chelsea apartment he originally moved into because of its proximity to the store’s Ninth Ave. location. Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic.

“I’m hoping somebody does a tribute to Nicolas Cage — I have far too many Nicolas Cage movies,” Sklar said with a laugh. “They’re all here — nobody wants them,” he joked. Sklar has sold off much of his collection, which at one point ran at about 30,000 titles on DVD and VHS. He says that now he has somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 DVDs. “We had another going out of business sale and that reduced the inventory quite a bit,” he said. “Most of the popular things go first. We’re sitting with a lot of B-product. But there’s still a few interesting things around.” Streaming sites like Amazon Prime and Netflix, and the lack of appetite to rent movies, have contributed to the lack of business. “People don’t even realize that there was a video rental business,” Sklar said. “Even though everything is not available, the convenience far outweighs what people would have to go through to rent a movie.” While Sklar is unsure what his next step will be, he is grateful that he had his business for as long as he did. “The daily routine was always so much fun, it was just very enjoyable,” he said. “People would come in, you’d see the kids, you’d see multiple generations.” He said his customers are now his friends, and he has a bit more time to have a life. “I’m just very lucky. I just feel like we were fortunate. We had a great neighborhood to be in,” he said. “Very loyal following. I appreciate just everything that happened. Not many people get to really love what they’re doing for so many years, and not have to cross the street to go work.” Sklar says people can get in touch with him at 646-515-4025.

Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
March 2015: At his W. 25th St. location, Alan Sklar stands beside the poster for “There Were Always Dogs, Never Kids” — a 23-minute documentary shot back in the store’s Ninth Ave. days. Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic.

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