VHQ pioneer gets back into video rental business

A Red Deer man who helped build the VHQ Entertainment Inc. network is returning to his rental roots.

A Red Deer man who helped build the VHQ Entertainment Inc. network is returning to his rental roots.

Tim Hillman plans to reopen the former Movie Gallery outlet at No. 4, 6842 50th Ave., early next month.

The store was part of the Movie Gallery Canada chain that recently closed its 131 outlets — including about a dozen in Central Alberta.

“Pretty much as long as they’ve been bankrupt I’ve been looking at it,” said Hillman of his interest in premises.

In fact, he said, he investigated the possibility of buying that business and other Movie Gallerys as going concerns.

But the liquidator wasn’t interested.

“There was no option to pick up existing stores that were operating.”

That’s meant starting from scratch, including obtaining new stock, but Hillman said this might be for the best.

“We’re starting with a clean slate.”

Hillman enters the video rental business with his eyes wide open. His parents, Gordon and Joanne, bought a Video View store in Eastview in the early 1980s and developed it into a 23-store chain.

Hillman and his siblings helped with the family business.

“My background in the industry goes back pretty much as long as I was able to see over the counters of the video stores.”

Gordon and Joanne sold their stores in 1996. Soon after, their children started Video Headquarters, which eventually went public and grew into a network of dozens of stores in primarily smaller communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories.

Movie Gallery bought the chain, which then consisted of 61 outlets, in 2005.

Hillman is not concerned about Movie Gallery’s failure. He thinks the problem was its American parent.

“Canada’s always been strong.”

He’s optimistic about the potential of the local video rental business, a sentiment shared by the operators of other independent stores.

Last week, Elaine and Ron DeGray, and Altaf Hirji, confirmed that they were reopening the former Movie Gallery stores in Innisfail, Olds and Sundre, and Lacombe, Wetaskiwin and Drumheller, respectively.

Hillman plans to operate his new store as Video View, and has rehired some former Movie Gallery staff to help him.