SCARECROW: THE WORLD’S GREATEST VIDEO STORE? Image

But there’s more. Front and center, a stairwell takes you to a half-dozen other upstairs rooms, dedicated to Psychotronic, Music, Performance, Literature, Documentaries, Action, Adventure, War and Westerns. Oh, yeah – there’s also a porno section, but it’s dubbed the Sexploitation room. Meaning, you’re likely to find vintage Russ Meyer “nudie cuties” as well as the latest Jenna Jameson flesh-fest.

Scarecrow Video’s history is more dramatic than the plot-lines of most films lining its shelves. Co-founder George Latsios, who migrated from Pennsylvania to Washington with wife Rebecca in 1983, died in 2003 after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Local writers and friends have speculated that instead of prompting Latsios to wilt away and surrender, discovery of the illness only fueled his impassioned quest to acquire rare videos. Like most dreamers, Latsios’ Utopian vision of his store exceeded his bank balance. His obsession to fill the store with obscure discs and tape culminated in debt problems and the eventual need to sell Scarecrow. In 1998, Microsofters Carl Tostevin and John Dauphiny purchased the store, ensuring its escape from impending financial doom and assuring that its founder’s legacy lives on.

Meanwhile, Scarecrow’s inventory – and profile – continue to expand. Latsios’ spirit inhabits the recently-released Scarecrow Movie Guide (Sasquatch Books), an 800-page brick of a rare film reference manual already into its third pressing. And unlike, say, Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, the Scarecrow book is scribed by store employees – most of them inexperienced writers. It’s riddled with emotional raves and pleased profanity. There’s the occasional “dueling critics” listing, where two writers with combative differences in opinion each contribute a review of the same film. Also scattered throughout its pages are unique lists written up by Scarecrow staffers, like “Best Postapocalyptic Movie” (“The Road Warrior” tops the list), “Our Favorite Extras-Packed DVD’s,” and “T.V. Series We Wish Were on DVD.”

What kind of person works at Scarecrow Video? Well, they’re not all tattooed Tarantino-lovers. Take Jen Koogler, an easygoing, pleasant store manager who ushers me upstairs to a pair of neon-orange reclining chairs. She points out a video on the Western shelf behind us, called “Pals of the Saddle.”

“If we lose that,” she explains in a serious, no-bullshit tone, “We’re committed to getting another one. I don’t know how it is at other stores. Maybe they lose something like that, and they don’t care. Maybe they only rented it twice in a year. But to us, that’s important. And that’s why people come here. They know we’ll have that stuff around.”

“I really think of Scarecrow as more of a library than a store,” she continues, sipping on a latte, “just because of the sheer volume of stuff you’re surrounded with. I don’t go into Blockbuster much, but when I do, it doesn’t seem to me to be very much about film. It’s very much about PRODUCT, and MOVING product. We’re more like an archive.”

And that, in a nutshell, sums up the genius behind Scarecrow Video, a store conceived by a visionary more concerned with the individual nooks and crannies of life that pulsate through obscure, diverse films, than with the bottom line.

“The whole spirit of this is all from George,” she confirms. “He was just fanatical about this kind of stuff. I didn’t know him very well, but I knew him well enough to sense his passion for movies. That’s what keeps the store going. We do everything in our power to share that with other people.”

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