by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN Contributing Writer
Another day on Capitol Hill, another LGBT-owned business closes its doors. This time it's Video Connection on the corner of 15th Ave. E. and E. Harrison St. Longtime owner Christopher Larson is still not quite over the fact that his community stalwart is going away. "We've been here such a long time," he said wistfully. "I'm still a bit stunned I had to make this decision."
In operation since 1992, Larson has been with the business since the beginning, co-owning with his then-partner before buying him out and becoming the sole proprietor in 2001. The store went out of its way to cater to everyone, and Chris and his staff worked hard to bring in a variety of titles in a multitude of genres that would appeal to the differing backgrounds and interests of the community at large.
"Our bread and butter were the adult titles, but I didn't want the store to be known as just another place to go for porn," Larson says honestly. "It was important to me that we create [a place] that you wouldn't feel bad about bringing your kids inside to look around in, a place were people could feel comfortable knowing they would never be judged once they placed that videotape or DVD on the counter."
According to a few of the customers browsing the store's remaining products, that statement rings close to home. "I've been coming here since they opened the door," said Terry, a longtime patron browsing the aisles who was also celebrating his 60th birthday. "There was a time when I was afraid of people knowing I was Gay and was worried what would happen if any of my friends or family found out. I could come here and rent whatever I wanted, and no one would judge me or stare after I made my selections. The staff was just so darn friendly and open about who they were, just being around them made me feel better about myself."
"It's a sad day when a business that's been such an important part of my life closes. I felt much the same way when Bailey/Coy Books shut down, but this time it's even a little bit worse. This is the place that [helped] me become who I am today; this is the place that made me proud to be an openly Gay man."
Chris has heard many stories like this one over the years, and it's the opportunity to make new stories that he's going to miss the most. "Those stories go beyond the [LGBT] clientele we've had come through our doors over the years," he says with a smile. "For 18 years, we were for many people the only store they knew, and the diversity of [those] we've done business with is something I'm proud of."
"A few years ago we had a woman come in who had some late fees that were accrued by her daughter, and she wanted her to learn a lesson abut responsibility and asked if we could help. We had the girl work off the late fees by alphabetizing all of the sections in the general part of the store and it ended up taking her a good portion of her Saturday to finish. It was just a good [thing to do] and, for me, the money didn't matter as much as helping this mom teach her daughter this lesson. When we announced we were closing, mom and daughter were two of the first people to come in and say how sad they were, and their sincerity meant a lot to me."
It's those memories he's going to miss the most. "The stories, the community, the camaraderie and the ability to give back to LGBT organizations are what's hardest to say goodbye to," Chris lamented. "We've sponsored softball teams, helped nonprofits with their fundraisers and gone out of our way to represent this community and Capitol Hill proud. Not being able to do that any more - or at least for the time being while I figure out my next step - is a bitter pill to swallow. But we're not the only one facing this. Our little Gay-owned businesses up here on the Hill have been dropping like flies."
Just because that's so, don't think Chris is giving up on Capitol Hill or the resilience of the diverse group of people who call it home. "I've been a Seattle native all my life, and I remember riding my bike up here to [the Hill] since I was 15," he says with a crooked grin. "This is my home. I love it up here. While the community has changed and become more developed, has turned in some cases into nothing more than a bunch of buildings, that doesn't mean we have to sit back and accept this transformation."
"In all honesty I have no idea how we change things back but I still don't think it's the end of days for Capitol Hill as we know it. I'm going to stay active in the community, going to keep living on the Hill and keep playing sports and being involved with all the extracurricular activities I plan to continue to enjoy. I have different dreams, different ideas about where I want to go next, and for right now I'm going to keep waking up with a new idea and as soon I find one I'm in love with I plan on being ready to go for it."
Video Connection is located at 345 15th Avenue East. Its last day of operation will be Sunday, March 7.
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