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Bradley Looks Forward at 20-Year Mark

18 Apr, 2005 By: Kurt Indvik

Bill Bradley with wife Connie holding a commemorative plaque.

Bill Bradley charged into the video rental business 20 years ago, and he hasn't slowed down since. His Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Bradley Video chain of 17 video and video game stores celebrated its 20th anniversary April 6.

It was in 1985 that president and founder Bradley, 44, opened the first Bradley Video in the northern California town of Fairfax. It was a 700-square-foot space with some 800 movies in inventory.

“I was an electrician at the time, but I always had loved movies,” said Bradley, who maxed his credit cards and took a second mortgage on his house to get started in the business. “I could see that this would be a fun business to be in.”

As Bradley has grown his business, he has seen the industry's independent retail industry wax and wane. He recounts the time when the small town of Novato, Calif., where he has a store, had 13 video stores operating. Only a few years earlier, it had just one.

“What I remember about the early years was that I never saw a video store go out of business,” Bradley said. “There was definitely a little more of the Wild West feel to things back then. The independents were doing all of the exciting changes and trying new stuff, while Blockbuster was just sort of holding steady. Now it seems it's Blockbuster that's trying all the new stuff.”

Bradley Video has hardly stayed still. In the past two years alone, Bradley has opened three new video stores and four of its five The Game Cage video-game-only stores that sell or trade new and used video games. The chain's video stores offer game rentals. The company has 172 employees, headed by GM Mark Raymond and a corps of experienced store managers, some of whom have been with the company for more than 10 years, including Kevin Brock, Jackie Thomas and Scott Madia.

Forward momentum is a key to Bradley Video's longevity, the rental veteran said. “It's just constant and never-ending focus on improvement. Keep your eye on the ball, and keep moving and shaking,” he said.

Bradley also has made a concerted effort to learn from successful retailers in other parts of the country. “We have flown all over the country visiting other operations to learn what kinds of things they are doing that we can do in our area,” he said.

For now, Bradley said he's content to work on firmly establishing the seven new stores he's opened in the past 24 months before moving forward again.

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