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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Bob Edwards Had a Good, Long Ride in the Video Business, and Now He's Driving a Truck

3 Aug, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- I've written many times about independent retailers who could no longer weather the storm, so they left the business. Closed up shop, sold out, got out.

Well, here's another one, and this time it's not an unknown name or even a casual acquaintance, but a good friend, a true friend, a buddy and close source who I haven't spoken to in about a year.

Now I know why.

I drove into this seaside resort town last night for Sunsplash 2001, the 13th annual retailer retreat sponsored by the Carolinas Chapter of the VSDA.

The opening-night event was a pleasant affair, a "Southern pig pickin'" orchestrated by Tom Warren, the longtime Carolinas Chapter activist and leader who also happens to be president of the national Video Software Dealers Association and the self-styled "godfather" of regional retailers.

Between chasing my 3-year-old between the legs of fiddlers and trying to convince him not to throw watermelon rinds into the torches, I met and mingled with a bunch of regulars, including ETD's Phyllis Hicks, Carolinas Chapter president Dave Batten and Harold and Sharon Chamberlain.

Conspicuously absent was Bob Edwards, of the Movie Man in Greensboro.

I asked Tom where he was, and his response: "He's driving a truck."

Bob Edwards, it appears, has left the business. He sold his last remaining store (at one time there were three) and went back to what he was doing before he entered home video back in the 1980s.

A little background. I first met Bob Edwards at the 1993 Regional Leaders Conference in San Diego, where his unbridled enthusiasm for the business caught a young editor's ear and we became fast friends. I followed Bob through his career triumphs, and in January 1998, when the Hollywood Reporter asked me to write a cover story on indie survivors, Bob was the lead profile.

"I just opened a new store, my third, and it's as pretty as anything that Hollywood [Entertainment] has," he boasted proudly.

Indeed, things were going well for Bob. His whole family had helped him build a mini-video empire, and now all that hard work was paying off. Bob was even able to buy his lovely wife, Donna, a Cadillac.

But then the revenue-sharing juggernaut gathered momentum, and independent retailers began finding out they couldn't compete against Blockbuster or Hollywood, regardless of how good they were at running their businesses. This was before the lifeline of sideways selling caught on; if a Blockbuster or Hollywood opened across the street from you, you were dead.

A Blockbuster opened across the street from Bob's new store. Within two months, he was losing so much money he was beside himself. He wrote an open letter to Blockbuster chief John Antioco that was posted on the VSDA discussion board, pointedly asking him why he was so aggressively going after market share if he knew any such gains had to come at other retailers' expense. At the time, Bob and John were both on the VSDA board. Bob wondered aloud, to me, why John would do this to him. "He was always very friendly," Bob mused. "But I guess business is business."

Business is business, too, to Bob's landlord, who wouldn't let him out of his lease. Bob continued to lose money. Finally he was able to close it, but by then several months of tight pursestrings had taken their toll on his other stores, and they began slacking off as well.

About a year ago, the last time I spoke with Bob, he told me things were so-so. He was down to one store, and essentially treading water. He was down, but not out. "I've got daughters growing up, weddings to pay for, grandkids," he said. "I never imagined this business would turn the way he did."

After that, we lost touch. I tried to reach Bob a few times, but to no avail. Now that he's out of the business, I have no way of getting in touch with him, but if by chance he's reading this, let me just say I miss him and I wish him all the best.

Bob, you had a good ride, for many years, in this video business of ours. We're always going to remember you.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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