There will soon be a void in East Rochester.
Hyatt’s Classic Video will close on Aug. 31, ending a 52-year run in business; a longevity that witnessed the fast change of technology and one that outlived major corporations like Blockbuster LLC.
Bob Hyatt, 84, has been operating a business in Rochester for the past five decades.
“We went from record albums and we switched over into video to beta and VHS and eight millimeter movie cassettes and then laser disc and then DVD,” he said.
The Hyatts received notice to vacate on July 28 and will be out of their 1,300-square-foot space in Piano Works Mall in East Rochester by Aug. 31.
The couple is currently hoping to sell the company’s roughly 55,000 item inventory—35,000 items in VHS and close to 20,000 in DVD format—by Aug. 18.
The owners will entertain offers from dealers to buy the entire inventory. If no buyers come forward the plan is to have a liquidation sale starting Aug. 19 and lasting until the inventory is gone.
“It’s probably time; we didn’t expect to be doing this so now that we’re doing it, it looks like a good thing,” said Beverlee Hyatt, co-owner of the firm.
“A lot of the sentiment has been expressed (about the closing) is just the feeling you have when you come into a small business; you feel that they know you, you know them,” she added.
Hyatt has run the company since he launched it in 1965. He previously was a recreational therapist at the Rochester Psychiatric Center.
Hyatt has operated some form of the business for the past 52 years with Beverlee, who also worked as a full-time speech pathologist up until 2013.
The couple will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this November.
The firm was originally based within what is now Parkleigh on the Goodman Street side of the building. The firm sold stereo components such as turntables and speakers and was called Bob Hyatt’s Stereo Centers Inc.
Rent at the time—in 1965—was $900 a year including heat.
Hyatt sold stereo components there for two decades before moving to Piano Works Mall on West Commercial Street in 1991 and changing the business’s moniker to Hyatt’s Classic Video. Hyatt’s Classic Video is a dba of Beta Video Corp., a company that Hyatt purchased in 1982. The firm had included a focus on video alongside its stereo business since 1978.
“I was one of the first to carry the (stereo) components and offer a discount price,” Hyatt said. “We saw the handwriting on the wall with stereo because what happened, the manufacturers got greedy and they started selling to places that no longer exist—catalogue houses.”
“His wealth of knowledge on the audio side as far as technical things was just immense so he was always able to help out there,” said Rod Adams, a long-time customer. “His (willingness) to help people make sure they had the right thing was always what made me notice him. You remember those things because you go into so many places and they just want to sell you something.”
The closing is a loss for Rochester’s past, Adams says.
“I think what the community loses is someone that can really bring a wealth of knowledge to their industry,” he said. “I think the community loses a real integral part of the past. As we move forward you don’t have that connection to the past. He’s very customer sensitive and really cares about the people coming in there. How many places do you go out there where an 84-year-old guy is running the business?
“He could just go back and sit in a rocking chair but he loves what he’s doing,” he added.
At its peak—from 1983 to 1988—the company had a total of 35 employees and just under $2 million in gross revenues.
Some employees included the couple’s four children who earned allowance by rewinding VHS tapes—at 50 cents a tape. The business helped teach them social skills, Beverlee Hyatt says.
“It’s mixed emotions because of my husband’s age—not that he doesn’t have the energy to do it, he certainly does—but it’s just that we’ve got four adult children now and it’s emotional for them as well because they grew up here and they learned their social skills from behind the counter,” she said.
The rise of companies like Blockbuster and now Redbox Automated Retail LLC and Netflix have all been headwinds the business has had to take on.
“The thing that killed us to start with was Blockbuster and the fact that they were open all those hours and then Wegmans started renting movies,” said Hyatt.
The business has had staying power because of Hyatt’s passion paired with the support of the community, says Paul Allen, a long-time customer and friend of the Hyatts.
“I’m not happy about it, but I’ve seen it coming for quite a few years now,” he said. “I’m amazed he stayed open as long as he did. I’m glad he did. He was probably one of the earliest locally owned video rental stores certainly in this area, maybe even in the country, because he started this a long time ago and he’s probably one of the last. It’s kind of the end of an era. He outlived Blockbuster.”
It has been a good ride, Hyatt says.
“I’m going to miss the customers,” he said.
Moving forward, the duo will see what’s next. There are no specific plans in place other than to pause and be grateful.
“I think that Rochester as a community cares about their small businesses,” said Beverlee Hyatt. “It’s bittersweet. We’re indebted for the Rochester community and we have a very warm spot in our heart for the number of years that we’ve been in business and their support. What a crazy ride; there is a stopping point.”
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