‘Small-town sentiment’ drives video store fans


From left: Ryle, Wes and Addie Violette in their Empire Video masks, made by a customer.

CRESWELL – Empire Video has been a staple of the community since its grand opening March 14, just two days after the first round of government-mandated shutdowns due to the pandemic.

Owner and movie enthusiast Wes Violette has an unmatched passion for films and familiarity for video stores that outlives brands such as Blockbuster.

And before you ask, yes, Violette is a fan of the infamous 1990’s film, Empire Records.  

Prior to Creswell, Empire Video lived in Cottage Grove for fifteen years. Violette grew up in the same town, and his career in video stores began when he was in eighth grade. 

“They paid me in movies until I was old enough for them to pay me real money,” Violette said. “I’ve been in a video store all my life.”

Moving Empire Video to Creswell was fate, Violette said. The owners of Empire Video’s original Cottage Grove location wanted to do something else with the building, and the same night Violette went searching for a new location in Creswell, he found 106 W. Oregon Ave.

The secret to running a video rental store in the Age of Information? Sentimental small towns. 

“It’s a passion to keep it running. I think we’re in a really good location. It’s all meant to be in a cosmic sort of way,” Violette said. 

The store runs on community effort, as Violette also works full time at Bi-Mart. Both of his teenage daughters, Addie and Ryle, help out at the video store when possible. Despite the negative hit COVID-19 restrictions has had on most businesses, Empire Video is holding up and still providing killer deals.  

“Business isn’t really what used to be like. Between being in a new location and having a pandemic it’s very crazy,” Violette said. “I’m sure once everything calms down, and it’s not so scary to go out there we’ll start seeing everybody. We just have to truck along.”

Addie Violette said every time her dad says Empire Video is at risk for closing, the business gets better every time.

“We just need more people to know about it,” Addie Violette said.

EMMA ROUTLEY/THE CHRONICLEA special section features movies made in Oregon.

Moving to a bigger location in Creswell meant that Empire Video could stay open during the two-week freeze, so long as customers wear a mask and socially distance.

Empire Video has a loyal customer base all over Lane County. Customers drive out from Cottage Grove, Eugene and Springfield. 

“There’s a few regulars we have weekly. There was a regular Cottage Grove customer that said they would come up, and I didn’t expect to see them, but we actually see them,” he said. 

In the future, Violette envisions adding a video delivery service for customers, especially for those who live farther away. For now, spreading the word about Empire Video and stopping by to say hi greatly helps the shop. 

“No one expected to be in something like this right now,” Violette said. “I’m just lucky that we can be open and try to be in business.”



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