“Good morning, store,” is how Video Isle owner Craig Wilson has greeted his store for the last 28 years. Now, he’s passing the torch to new owner Tonya Perfect and leaving Queen Anne for Arizona.
Wilson started Video Isle in Queen Anne in 1986. He moved it a few blocks up Queen Anne Avenue North in 1990 and opened the Fremont location the year before that. In the beginning, he worked seven days a week and lived in an apartment down the street.
“I was a real Queen Anney,” he said. “And Queen Anne was a very sleepy and bohemian neighborhood.”
When he had the chance to move, Wilson designed the Queen Anne location (2213 Queen Anne Ave. N.) to be inviting, with its counter at the back and signature popcorn.
“It’s worked because of the energy that people who have worked for me have put into it,” he said, “[and] the energy that our customers and community have given to it. It’s just been a great thing.”
Despite continued success, Wilson, who is in his 60s, had been thinking about selling for a few years. He hadn’t created a selling plan, but the market improved and Perfect expressed interest in buying the store. Wilson and Perfect have worked together as photographers so they have an already-established working relationship and friendship.
Perfect started working for Wilson part-time over the summer, to get to know the customer base. As of Jan. 1, Perfect is the official new owner, but Wilson will continue to help her with the transition for the next few months.
Perfect is a “Queen Anney,” too, even though she lives in Magnolia now. She raised her kids in the neighborhood and brought them to the store when they were young.
“I have vivid memories of my son — who is now 21 — being on his knees, with his coat tied around his waist, at a little, tiny age going, ‘Mom, can we get this [movie], too?’” she said.
With such a strong connection to the store, Perfect didn’t want to see it go, so she stepped up and took it on, she said. But business isn’t anything new for Perfect, who also owns Intentional Images photo studio in Bellevue.
“It feels heartfelt and fulfilling,” she said. “I’m definitely the right person to step up and take it over.”
Don’t expect many changes as Perfect takes the reins. She plans to keep Wilson’s community emphasis as the store’s cornerstone. One small change is the store will support a girls’ AAA softball team this year, instead of a boys’ baseball team. She also plans to take some of the marketing and promotions online to bring a younger, energetic vibe to “carry this store forward.”
Despite major chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video closing across the country and new online services like Netflix and Hulu, Perfect had no hesitations taking over the store.
“I’m proud of how successful I’ve been in the years that I’ve been a business owner and feel like everything is going to be just fine,” she said. “I really believe in my heart we’ll be one of the last ones standing in the nation.”
Once Perfect completely takes over, Wilson and his wife will move to northern Arizona, where he grew up.
Wilson admits he’s had moments of “heavy heart” when he thinks about leaving his business and his community. But “I’m also very happy that I have the opportunity to pursue other things,” he said, “and to leave my legacy, Video Isle, in good order to a good person.”
It’s the little things that make him appreciate the legacy, like the other morning when Wilson watched a mother and her young son return a movie before the store was open.
“I just had this warmth run over me, and I said, ‘Yes, yet another generation is going to have this experience,’” he said. “I’m sure I had the biggest smile on my face.”
Working at Video Isle is a social job, and Wilson will miss the friends, customers and neighbors.
“I feel truly blessed that I was lucky enough to discover Queen Anne,” he said.
Wilson hasn’t heard much from the community about the business’ sale, but he and Perfect haven’t officially announced it, either. They’re taking care of the business first, with Wilson teaching Perfect “his songs” before she takes over and brings in her own, he said.
Wilson is excited about the changes ahead. “I hope the people that do know me and see me, that they’re excited for me and my wife, as well,” he said. “As much as we’ve enjoyed the tree of fruit on Queen Anne hill, we’re looking for other flavors.”
He plans to take a month or two off, but not more than that because he’s not one for relaxing. Once he finds a house, he’ll look for another “low-impact” business venture. Maybe that’s an iguana-dancing school, he joked, or the more serious idea of a coin-operated car wash. He’s also interested in developing his photography business.
“I’m very happy about my experience, not only with Video Isle and all the people but the community and the lifestyle in general,” Wilson said.
“I hope the people in the community of Queen Anne fully embrace and support our new owner, Tonya Perfect,” he said. “She’s got the heart and spirit, and she will continue to keep Video Isle what has made it so special to everybody: a friendly neighborhood video store.”
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