Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Alan's Alley Video

VANISHING

For over 25 years, Alan's Alley Video store has been a beloved neighborhood staple in Chelsea. Now, a reader sends in word of a FOR LEASE sign in the window.

In 2011, the Real Deal reported that Alan's was "hanging on by a thread," struggling to pay the $12,000 monthly rent. It looks like the thread has finally snapped, thanks to a combination of changing technology and the prospect of bigger rent.



I talked to Alan Sklar, who opened the business in 1988. He told me, "We don't have any plans to close. We go with the flow. But the landlord's got plans. He's looking for a new tenant."

Alan says the store will stay in business for several more months, with no specific closing date. Once the landlord finds a new tenant, however, that will be the end. Winick has the listing, calling the space "Previously Alan's Alley Video," even though it's still Alan's Alley, and noting the nearby selling points, a bunch of chains and the High Line, all that Chelsea has been reduced to.

"It's been a nice 25 years," said Alan. He doesn't expect he'll be able to find any place in the city with affordable rent.

From 2011 - 2012, filmmaker Max Tannone made a documentary about Alan's, called "There Were Always Dogs, Never Kids." In the film, Alan tells the story of his shop, his shop cats, and the days when the neighborhood was still an eclectic mix of different types of people, including a large gay population. (The shop still carries four copies of Cabaret.)



Just last year, the New York Times did a feature on Alan's. At the time, "Mr. Sklar mused on what it felt like to be the last man standing. 'Almost from the day we opened, I felt we were going to get phased out by technology,' he said. But the store pays its bills, he said, and he feels lucky to have run it without compromise for so long.

'Until the writing’s on the wall, it’s hard to walk away,' he said. 'In a way, we’ve never had long-term plans.'"


22 comments:

Bart said...

I went in here a few months ago for the first time and thought this place was really disgusting. It just seemed like nobody had cleaned it or made any renovations since the 80s. I would never want to run a business like that nor be a customer of a place like that. It wasn't charming, it was sloppy.

Anonymous said...

I give them credit for hanging on so long. I'm in that neighborhood frequently and I'm always surprised that in this current landscape of New York the place was still standing. Good for them, but I knew it was only a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

The listing has been changed to say
Currently Alan's Alley Video instead of Previously Alan's Alley Video.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting us know about this. Like a previous poster, I am impressed that this place stayed in business for so long with technology evolving the way it has and the neighborhood changing the way it has. I wish the owner and staff good luck with whatever is next for them. If they could keep this place going for 25 years, surely they can find success with another business!

konyc said...

Guessing the store was named for Fred Allen's long-running radio show.

Karim said...

The first poster wants to live in a squeaky clean, antiseptic, boring NYC. They will likely patronize the hollow, crappy, suburban chain store that will take over this space. Clearly a revolution is in order. Bring back messiness! Hail unpredictability! Long live eccentricity! Normals go home!

Ms. said...

Such a nice man....how sad to lose the personal touch...how I hate the faceless corporations, the greedy landlords... the loss of that valuable human connection. Broke as I am right now, and most of the time, I will make a visit soon.

Roseofbohemia said...

I am sad about this. A couple of my friends worked there in h.s., and Alan is really nice. The store has the best movie selection EVER, in addition to being the last of its kind in Mannahatta.

Anonymous said...

Whoever "Bart" is, above, should move to Dallas. Maybe find a place near the Texas Book Depository, if it's still there. Oh, right, "Bart" probably doesn't understand that allusion.
Long Live Alan's Alley and all the other non-Pinkberry, non-Duane Reade, non-Bank of America shops that are still standing in New York!

Paul Geoghan said...

Oh for Pete's sakes. It was a video store. I used to get my videos there years ago. Now I don't buy videos anymore so he went out of business. Couldn't he think of something else to do. Sorry he didn't evolve. It happens.

Anonymous said...

oh, what a terrible shame. Huge, huge loss for the neighborhood and for really smart and informed and interesting and humane people who rented from him. Because he is all of those things. Rent several times a week, absolutely heartbreaking. People posting here "eh, get over it, you failure-to-adapt loser" are soul-dead. Turn off your computer and look away from your iPhone for 2 minutes. Just once, please? Big world out there...

P2 said...

Alan's Alley is a gem and this a big loss for movie lovers and the Chelsea community. The staff were so astute at being able to recommend apt movie recommendations from little input. This place has soul!

KIRK CAMPION said...

I work in advertising, and have used Alan's Alley for over 20 years for both work and personal reasons. It has always been an incredible, reliable, friendly,store.
Alan and crew have always been extremely helpful with recommendations,and advise.
I personally will miss them!
Good Luck with your new adventure Alan!
Kirk@McCann

Anonymous said...

To Bart:

One day technology will also phase you out of a career you built and loved. And the universe will be indifferent. But I will be smiling.

Anonymous said...

What's sad about this is the loss of community you have going into this store. You could talk movies with anyone behind the counter and they loved it. And you always walked away with something new. Ordering from Netflix and Amazon are not quite the same thing. Wishing that the evolution didn't represent the alienation we have from other people. 25 years is an excellent run, though. And I will miss the cats and company. Good luck Alan

Anonymous said...

Hello, just read about the likely closing, this is another example of gentrification, real estate market values, & the loss of an independently owned
mom & pop business. I did see the short film done by Max Tannone on Alans store, There were Always Dogs, Never Kids, very enjoyable and a sweet valentine to a sweet guy. Good Luck Alan !

Film Flan said...

Alan of Alan's Alley just texted me that he has to be out by the 15th and is closing on the 7th. He wants to find another space but hasn't had time to look.

Anonymous said...

His collection is a gold mine of collector's VHS and DVDs that are very out of print and some folks would pay big bucks for online. I hope he can sell of most of it and make enough to retire.

Anonymous said...

"Bart" type people are the kind of assholes that are ruining New York. They want to be "babied and pampered" like all of he dip-shit yuppies who have taken the New York charm away and replaced it with overpriced bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Alan is the nicest man you will ever meet. Anyone that says the ace is disgusting needs to leave NYC and stay home and rent from netflix. This is perhaps the last of the great new yorkers and great new york stores. I pray he gets something else. I would go there over netflix anyday. I'm going there now! (Sat, July 12, 2014).

GOOD LUCK ALAN! YOU AND YOUR STORE ARE GEMS IN A CITY THAT IS FAST TURNING INTO COAL.

Anonymous said...

Paul Geoghan and Bart,

please move the fuck out of NYC. You are both monkey cum rags.

Anonymous said...

I moved out of Chelsea a year ago, but had done business with Alan's Alley for two decades, and continued occasionally to stop by from across town. Last weekend, I stopped by to sadly say goodbye to this neighborhood institution, and to pick up a few things at his inventory reduction sale, for sentimental reasons.

This week, NY1 reports that Alan's Alley will be reopening at 164 W. 25th Street, 5th floor. May he remain the Last Video Store Standing!