Rain City on Market Street to close

by Christy Wolyniak

After serving the movie buffs of the Ballard community for 25 years, Rain City Video is sad to say goodbye to their location on Market Street. However, in spite of the loss of having a handpicked movie collection in its backyard, Sunset Hill’s Rain City is revving up its store with artistic flair.

For most neighborhoods, renting a movie equates to a large red box with a limited selection of hot picks thanks to the internet chasing nearly every video store out of town. However, Rain City Video Owner, Mark Vrieling, is not afraid of the online movie giants because for him film is an artistic presence, it’s personal, and he hopes to continue supplying authentic films with his knowledgeable staff for years to come.

“Video stores were at their best when they were considered a movie destination: it’s a place where you talk about film, where people behind the counter understand the industry and give you interesting conversation about the film or artist. That type of conversation gets lost in an online community. We hope to turn the Sunset Hill Rain City back into a destination for entertainment rather than a necessary evil for picking up a movie,” said Vrieling.

An artist himself, Vrieling has always had a heart for film, music and the arts, and all of his employees are artists as well.

“I thought the VCR was the neatest technology I had ever seen. I thought it was time to do something I had really wanted to do, which was in the film and video business,” said Vrieling, who also owns Screenplay, a successful trailer supplier company.

“People don’t quite understand yet, that when we move to online, one thing we’ve lost is this whole thing of curation. Netflix and Amazon have large collections, but not any curation of these films as an art form. I wouldn’t trade the collection that Netflix has got for that little collection in Rain City Video for anything.”

Curation of the arts is a passion that Vrieling has successfully extended into all things film. Complete collections of Alan Rudolph and Martin Scorsese, as well as having new releases and a Foreign Language section, among others handcrafted for the neighborhood are what keep people coming back to Rain City. Vrieling encourages his storeowners to pick movies to fit their neighborhood versus what might be popular to culture. B-movies, gory flicks, big boobs and big guns will likely not adorn this video store’s shelves.

In Vrieling’s letter to the public, he wrote, “The Ballard community really “Got It” and dove into our collection with both feet watching all the eclectic stuff we brought in over the years. If you want to know the personality of Ballard, look at our shelves. What Ballard likes is there, what they don’t is not.”

In order to pique the appetite of even the slightest of artists, Vrieling plans to bring in trunk shows featuring different collections each month, while keeping some of the work to sell in the Sunset Store. With curation at the heart of Rain City, a unique collection of “mod, odd, and collectible stuff” will soon be sold along with duplicate copies of films, vintage cameras, turntables, and even greeting cards -- Ballard-made, of course.

“The days for a standalone video store are already gone, but I think videos as part of a mix can be around for a long, long, time,” said Vrieling.

Original photos of Pearl Jam, along with collections of old cameras, and records are some of the artsy additions patrons will notice in the coming months of Rain City’s consolidation to Sunset Hill.

“Ballard was my first, where I started everything, for me it will always be home. I’m going to miss that neighborhood, hopefully that neighborhood will come visit us at Sunset Hill. I used to live in Crown Hill, so that’s my ground. Although the store was tiny, looking for movies always felt like an adventure, because they were stacked so high it was easy to get lost in the films,” said Vrieling.

“One of my earliest memories of the Sunset store, was when my wife and I were the running store, and we couldn’t afford babysitting back then. I had to open the store, but didn’t have anyone to babysit, and I had this big rush coming in, so people were passing Zoey back and forth in line to keep her from fussing. The play pen in the back was something the locals got used to. When you’re a Mom and Pop shop you just do what you’ve got to do. In the Ballard community you pass the baby.”

The Market store will cease operations around the first quarter of 2014, and is selling many duplicate copies of many rare and out of print film titles, and will continue selling and renting from its extensive movie library at Sunset Hill.

“Ballard has a more sophisticated, artsy taste, and they can appreciate what we’re doing more so than other parts of town. I really like that about Ballard too - being part of this community, people always treated us as such, not just as a commodity. We’re a Ballard business and people go out of their way to patronize us and we’ve been really lucky to have that.”

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