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Indie Retailer Craig Wilson Dies

15 Jan, 2016 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Veteran home video retailer Craig Wilson died Jan. 14 in Dewey, Ariz., after suffering a massive heart attack. He was 66. During the heyday of the video rental business, Wilson was one of the most quotable, and visible, independent retailers. For 28 years he ran Video Isle in Seattle, and participated in many industry functions, including attending the annual Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) convention and serving as a “Handicapper” for Video Store Magazine, Home Media Magazine’s predecessor. A handicapper is a retailer who predicted the rental power of upcoming releases and reported the number of copies he is buying per store.

He retired in January 2014, selling his two stores to Tonya Perfect and leaving his longtime home in Queen Anne, Wash., for Dewey, Ariz.

“Craig had been a longtime video store owner and long-time member and regional leader of EMA (then VSDA),” said Mark Fisher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Merchants Association. "He was a great retailer. He knew his product, and he knew his customer base, and he ran his store accordingly. And, he was a great, fun guy, too! Craig will be missed by all his friends and colleagues in the industry.”

According to a January 2014 article in the Queen Anne & Magnolia News, “‘Good morning, store,’ is how … Wilson has greeted his store for the last 28 years.” Wilson started Video Isle in the Queen Anne neighborhood in 1986. He moved it a few blocks up Queen Anne Avenue North in 1990, a year after opening a second Fremont location. According to the article, “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.’”

The article said that despite continued success, Wilson “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.”

Wilson and his wife subsequently moved to northern Arizona, where he grew up. He told the Queen Anne & Magnolia News before his departure that 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.”

In a second article, in February 2014, the newspaper noted that more than 100 Queen Anne community members “gathered to say goodbye to Craig Wilson,” complete with a roast. “Friends told stories about Wilson’s generosity through his work at the Queen Anne Helpline, the Queen Anne Chamber, the Christmas tree lot and various other community organizations and events,” the newspaper said. “Speakers pointed out how much of Wilson’s time was devoted to helping others, even calculating that he must have volunteered a year and a half of his life for those organizations. A letter from Gov. Jay Inslee was read, thanking Wilson for his ‘tremendous generosity.’”

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